Jonathan Ginocchetti, left, and his son Vincent stand in the parking lot of the family's business - Gino's Shoe Store - in Dallas. DALLAS - Jonathan Ginocchetti thought it was a joke when he went to the bank for a small business loan and learned he had to get flood insurance first.
Although the Dallas Borough shoe store he has owned for 43 years and hopes to pass on to his children was never flooded, he was shocked to learn that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had determined half of his building is now in a flood risk zone. Property owners who believe they have been mistakenly placed in a flood zone on Flood Insurance Rate maps can go through a process to amend the maps. So when new National Flood Insurance Program maps, based on data collected by FEMA, went into effect for Dallas on Nov. Even more surprising to Ginocchetti was the fact that neighboring properties on lower ground didn't seem to be in the flood zone.
FEMA Region III spokesman Peter Herrick said history of flooding is not taken into account when compiling the data, because the maps are not to show past flooding, but risk of future flooding.


Data like proximity to the creek may not factor in, and although a lot of times people compare their flood risk and insurance to their neighbors, due to the extensive mapping and data, it may not be an accurate comparison, according to Herrick. Coverage premiums a property owner pays through the National Flood Insurance Program are established through Flood Insurance Rate Maps drawn up by FEMA.
When drawing up the maps, Herrick said FEMA considers factors such as topography and hydrology - flow of water - in designating flood zones. Development is also taken into consideration, says Rick Harmon, Dallas' floodplain administrator.
Harmon said a FEMA director told him the agency uses satellite images, studies what has been built up and down the road, the installation of floodwalls and floodgates. Although the revisions put some property owners, like Ginocchetti, in the floodplain for the first time, others, like some residents along the back of Machell Avenue near the reservoir, were out of it for the first time in 30 years or more. Property owners who disagree with their floodplain designations can submit a Letter of Map Amendment to FEMA, Herrick said.


Ginocchetti hired a surveyor and had an elevation certificate drawn up according to FEMA specifications. Harmon said a hydrological study, which involves examining the force and height of the water, can get a property owner out of the flood zone, but the studies are very intense - and very expensive.
Property owners can resubmit Letters of Map Amendment, but the information has to be certified by a licensed surveyor or registered engineer, according to David Thomason, deputy director external affairs for FEMA Region III. Gino's Shoes didn't even flood during Hurricane Irene in August 2011, which was so intense some parts of the Back Mountain that had not flooded before took on water. He discovered his property was, in fact, 10 feet higher than the part of the Dallas Shopping Center down the road which was out of the flood zone.



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