Important Information About Flooding in the
City of Washington and Washington Park
This information is intended for those persons owning property in a special flood hazard area (SFHA) within the City of Washington and Washington Park, as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and delineated on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) effective May 5, 1987.
Flood Regulation Information (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
The Flood Warning System
Beaufort County receives flood warnings from the National Weather Service via the Emergency Broadcast System and the N.C. Division of Emergency Management. Within 24 hours or less, the Beaufort County Emergency Services Office acts upon all warnings received. That information is passed on to the public via local radio, television stations, fixed siren systems, public address systems, and the Emergency Broadcast System. The county has also adopted an Emergency Operations Plan developed to address the multiple hazards that threaten the jurisdiction. The Emergency Operations Plan presents a basic plan for Beaufort County and City of Washington officials that clearly defines who will do what and when during an emergency.
There are several actions residents of flood hazard areas can take to decrease the potential of injury due to flooding:
- Be familiar with local flood warning procedures as mentioned in this notice.
- Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream where water is above your knees.
- Keep children away from floodwaters, ditches, culverts, and storm drains.
- If your vehicle stalls in high water, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground.
- Evacuate the flood hazard area in times of impending flood or when advised to do so by Beaufort County and/or City of Washington officials.
- Cut off all electrical circuits at the fuse panel or disconnect switches. If this is not possible, disconnect all electrical appliances and shut off the water services and gas valves in your home.
Property Protection Measures
Every year, flooding causes more property damage in the United States than any other type of natural disaster. While recent improvements in construction practices have made new homes less prone to flood damage, there are a significant number of existing houses that continue to be susceptible to repetitive losses. Many of these homeowners feel they are trapped in a never-ending cycle of flooding and repairing. The house is rarely the same, and its value usually declines.
However, there are ways this cycle of repetitive flooding can be broken. Throughout the country, many examples can be found to illustrate practical and cost-effective methods for reducing or eliminating the risk of a house being flooded again. In cases where flooding may be unavoidable, steps are taken to reduce the amount of damages incurred. Some have reduced their flood losses by taking temporary measures such as moving furniture and equipment to upper floors or to higher elevations. Others have held back rising waters by sandbagging or building temporary levees. More permanent approaches have also been used. The Federal Insurance Administration has published a manual that describes various techniques that can be used to flood proof an existing building. This process is known as "retrofitting."
The Design Manual for Retrofitting Flood Prone Structures presents a series of permanent retrofitting measures that can be incorporated into an existing house to reduce or eliminate the potential of future flooding. The measures covered include:
- Elevation of a structure
- Relocation of a structure
- Use of levees and floodwalls
- Sealing a structure
- Protection of utilities
Usually, your homeowner's insurance policy does not cover losses due to flooding. Washington participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, which makes federal flood insurance available to everyone in the city. Property owners in Washington and Washington Park qualify for a reduction in flood insurance because the cities participate in the Community Rating System Program. Call your insurance agent regarding these rates and other information specific to your policy. Being in the regular phase of this NFIP Program, a detailed flood insurance study has been done and Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) developed. Property owners within the city may purchase flood insurance as follows:
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Drainage System Maintenance
The drainage system in Washington is made up of the Tar-Pamlico River and several of its tributaries. In addition to serving as a drainage basin, this system also serves as a recreational waterway so it must be kept clear and navigable. A community can lose some of its drainage system storage capacity due to dumping, debris, soil erosion, sedimentation, and overgrowth of vegetation. When this happens, flooding is more likely to occur and may subject more property to the flood hazard. Inspections are made routinely and measures are taken to maintain the system. It is illegal to dump anything into or intentionally degrade the system. Report any violations in Washington to the Planning Department at (252) 975-9317, and in Washington Park to Zoning Administration at (252) 946-3157.
Floodplain Development Permit Requirements
Any development work in a flood hazard area requires the issuance of local permits prior to the work to ensure that it will not aggravate the effects of flooding and that the structures are flood damage resistant. Any development work includes excavation, dredging, filling, dumping, bulk-heading, driving of piles, clearing, alteration of land prior to building, or alteration of shore bank or bottom of any waterway. This description certainly indicates that prior to doing any work you should contact the Building Inspector's office at (252) 975-9334 or the Planning Department at (252) 975-9317. Report permit violations to the Inspections Office at (252) 975-9334.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires that if the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvements to a building exceeds 50% of the buildings fair market value, then the building must meet the same construction requirements as a new building. Substantially damaged buildings must also be brought up to the same standards (e.g., a residence damaged so that the cost or repairs equals or exceeds 50% of the building's value before it was damaged must be elevated above the base flood elevation).
Natural & Beneficial Functions of Floodplains
In addition to the beauty afforded by our rivers and wetlands these features dissipate wave forces, reduce frequency and duration of surface flow, provide habitat for fish, wildlife, and other vegetation, and filter various forms of runoff. Fortunately, NC CAMA and US Army Corps of Engineers regulations protect these areas from undesirable development that would be detrimental to both the environment as well as the development itself.
The Flood Hazard
The dominant sources of flooding in the city are storm surge and riverine flooding. Storm surge from the Atlantic Ocean propagates into the Pamlico Sound, which further propagates into the Tar-Pamlico River, which further propagates into Jack's Creek, its tributaries, and Snode Creek; riverine flooding from heavy rainfall occurs on Cherry Run and its tributaries, Pineygrove Branch and Runyon Creek/Herring Run.
North Carolina also experiences hurricanes, tropical storms, and severe extra-tropical cyclones, known as "Nor'easters." These storms passing through the city have historically produced severe flooding and extensive property damage. These flood losses are also caused by the cumulative effect of obstructions in the floodplain which cause increases in flood heights and velocities, and by development that is inadequately elevated, flood proofed, or otherwise unprotected from flood damages.
Washington offers, as a public service, the following assistance to residents, property owners, realtors, insurance agents, and lenders:
- Assistance in determining if properties are in a special flood hazard area
- Special flood protection techniques
- Flood determinations
- Historical flooding patterns
- Retrofitting and flood proofing advice
- Flood insurance requirements
City of Washington
P.O. Box 1988
Washington, NC 27889