TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — More than seven months after Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the Jersey shore, thousands of homeowners are getting some relief from crushing rebuilding and insurance costs.
As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released new flood maps. They feature updated information about the likelihood of damage from future storms.
The new maps significantly scale back the level of highest danger, the so-called “V” zones, which had caused many homeowners the greatest aggravation.
“Now that the study is completed, [it] does incorporate a more precise calculation of the wave hazards,” FEMA Region II Deputy Director Bill McDonald told WCBS 880. “We are comfortable in what we are delivering now as it is a true depiction of what those zones are and what the risk is in those areas.”
The old flood risk maps were a frustration for Margaret Moniz. Her home in Union Beach, N.J., was destroyed by Sandy.
“I had a piece of pier that came right through it,” she said. “The house is gone.”
Moniz held off on rebuilding, because the FEMA advisory maps released last year would have placed her in a high-risk flood zone.
Meanwhile, Bill Geltzeiler, owner of Beach Bistro on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright, is back in business. But he said the hefty price tag and uncertainty over rebuilding standards has delayed progress in the community.
“ [Customers] aren’t even back in their houses because to start with they’re going to have to raise them up and it’s going to cost them $30,000 just do that,” Geltzeiler said.
With the new maps, residents who are no longer in “V” zones will no longer have to raise their homes. Thus, it will cost a lot less to rebuild.
“Even when you’re thinking of resell, no one wants to be in V zone,” Moniz said.
But a mile away, Charles Calmon put his new module home 17 feet up on pilings based on the old maps. He said he would have saved a lot of money if he had waited.
“I would have saved about $30,000 to $35,000,” Calmon said. “I mean, it makes me angry. But you know what? If I had waited, I wouldn’t be in my house three or four months from now.”
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said the new flood maps are more accurate and less restrictive so it will speed up the rebuilding process.
“If the costs were going to be exorbitant to rebuild, people would be compelled to sell and move somewhere else and more opulent families would move in and it would certainly change the character of the town,” Doherty said.
“What is does for those people, it puts them back into where they can at least now have the light at the end of the tunnel. They can start to rebuild. They can get back in their homes,” Brick Mayor Stephen Acropolis told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot. “In Brick Township, we’ve gone from 4,000 people in the V zones to roughly 800 to 900 homes.
“So, for those 3,000, it’s an early Fourth of July, an Independence Day, if you will, to be able to get back in their homes and hopefully start the rebuilding process,” Acropolis continued.
The largest decrease in V zone coverage is in Atlantic County, where it declined by 80 percent. The zone shrunk by 76 percent in Hudson County; 46 percent in Monmouth County and 45 percent in Ocean County.
The V zones indicate properties at greatest damage from wave damage in a storm. Those who live along the ocean are still considered to be at higher risk.
Union Beach construction official Bob Burlew was asked whether the new map gives people a false sense of security, since so many homes were destroyed in the town.
“Not in this case,” Burlew said. “We’re in the back bay, not on the oceanfront.”
And for residents such as Charles Radcliff, who was about to raise his home, the new map was a huge relief and will mean thousands of dollars in savings when it comes to insurance.
“I was happy, real happy — like a little kid at Christmas,” Radcliff said.
FEMA officials said their initial map was just a guideline for homeowners.
Many people who have raised their homes said it makes them feel safer.
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