Flooded streets in Charleston

Flooding like this at Gadsden and Bennett streets will become more common as sea levels keep rising. File/Staff

While recent research suggests flooding is becoming a more frequent problem in Charleston, updated flood maps developed for Charleston County show more properties are being removed from the flood-prone zone than are being added. 

The new flood insurance rate maps were revealed Monday at the first of three public workshops the county is holding this week for residents to learn how the changes might affect their properties and insurance rates.

In all, 14,665 properties are being removed from the high-risk flood zone, while 3,103 are being added. Those figures could change as the Federal Emergency Management Agency receives public input and finalizes the new maps in late 2018 or early 2019. 

Property owners with federally backed mortgages are required to purchase flood insurance for properties in designated flood-prone areas. 

Maria Cox Lamm, the National Flood Insurance Program coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said the updates reflect more recent, accurate data about the area's topography. Some properties were removed because new surveys show their elevation is higher than previously known.

She said authorities still suggest all property owners purchase or continue to pay for flood insurance in coastal counties.

"As we've seen over the past two years, flooding can occur outside of the mapped areas," she said.

Sarah McLester of Wadmalaw Island found out her property was being added to the high-risk floodplain, which means she'll have to purchase flood insurance once the new FEMA maps are finalized.

"It's not a surprise," she said. "I understand that it floods more now. ...  It's just a reality."

Jason Crowley and Emily Cedzo of the Coastal Conservation League also went to the county's workshop Monday to learn more about the changes. They said it was surprising to see that local flood zones are shrinking while research shows the sea level is rising. 

"It's good news in the short-term for folks, but long-term, we've got to start having conversations about sea level rise and resiliency," Cedzo said. 

Another workshop will be held from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday at C.E. Williams Middle School, 640 Butte St. in West Ashley; and from 2-7 p.m. Wednesday at Alhambra Hall, 131 Middle St. in Mount Pleasant.

Charleston County Building Services also has a hotline for questions: 843-202-6957. Callers are asked to leave a message with their question and contact information.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.