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Owners to get explanation of changes in flood map

A revised flood zone map that promised to cut insurance premiums for thousands of South Buffalo residents has triggered a flood of a different kind.

Confused homeowners have unleashed a torrent of phone calls and e-mails on City Hall offices with basically the same question: "Now what do I do?"

The owners of many of the 2,768 properties removed from the high-risk flood category Sept. 26 have no idea what type of documents to provide to obtain insurance relief. City officials said they feared some homeowners even might be under the false impression that their costly flood insurance premiums will be rescinded automatically.

"The onus is on the mortgagee," South Common Council Member Michael P. Kearns emphasized. Kearns, part of a vocal group of elected leaders lobbying for a revamped flood zone, explained that individuals must contact their lenders.

Others might have expected federal officials to send out step-by-step instructions, but the Council has been told that will not be done. So Kearns and Council Majority Leader Richard A. Fontana, who represents the Lovejoy District, have scheduled a news conference today to announce plans to send all affected property owners a mailing that will include a form intended help prove the changed status.

The Council voted last month to approve the new flood map, and federal officials signed off on the changes a short time later. The high-risk flood zone now contains fewer than 340 properties.

In such zones, properties with mortgages or home-improvement loans must carry special insurance.

A Council survey taken last year found that the average flood insurance premium in South Buffalo and the Lovejoy District averaged $534 a year. Some homeowners were paying as much as $1,200, while some businesses were saddled with premiums as high as $5,500.

Critics note that the insurance does not cover the type of basement flooding that sometimes follows storms. Water would have to come in through a first-floor window for the catastrophic flood insurance to cover damage.


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