POINCIANA – Annette Brown-Best watched the soaking rains barreling her neighborhood for six days, courtesy of Tropical Storm Debby, with a certain sense of irony.
The storm brought day after day of rain to Poinciana, and by the time the sun came back out this morning, Brown-Best was able to make note of one clear fact: her house hadn’t flooded – even though the federal government had warned her that it might following a storm like Debby.
“We were not even touched by it,” she said. “We had five days of straight rain from Debby, and we had no problems from it.”
And now Brown-Best is documenting that fact, and encouraging her neighbors to do the same. The reason is she hopes to convince the Federal Emergency Management Agency that Poinciana is not in a flood zone – and that local homeowners should not be required to buy costly flood insurance.
“That’s why all the people who had the surveys done, not one of them is in a flood zone,” she said.
The U.S. government contacted Osceola County last year to inform officials that some of its communities were in a flood zone, including several neighborhoods in Poinciana, even though there’s never been a single instance of a home that got flooded in the community of 10 villages that cuts across Polk and Osceola counties.
FEMA now uses topographical surveys, which employ advanced satellite screenings, to make these determinations. Those screenings have indicated that some parts of Poinciana are now in a potentially risky flood zone. All of those neighborhoods are on the Osceola County side of Poinciana, and have not yet impacted the 31,000 residents who live in the Polk County neighborhoods.
FEMA had given residents of the Osceola County side of Poinciana until May 17 to respond to a new government survey that classified their homes as being in a flood zone. If the residents couldn’t prove otherwise by paying for their own land survey to be done, the government will automatically classify certain neighborhoods as now being flood zones — even if that was not the case when the homeowner first bought their property.
The FEMA designation of being in a High Risk Flood Zone means banks and mortgage lenders would now require the homeowners to get flood insurance, which can run as high as $2,000 a year, depending on how risky the flood zone is considered to be by the government. Anyone within 100 feet of a flood zone could be required by their mortgage holder to purchase flood insurance.
Brown-Best is one of those homeowners, and she doesn’t believe her home is in a flood zone – and now thinks Tropical Storm Debby helped prove that.
Despite all the rain that storm brought to Central Florida and Poinciana, she said, “The waters here went down beautifully, because the APV (Association of Poinciana Villages, the community’s homeowners association) makes sure they keep these swales where they need to be, lower. They take care of the retention ponds and they’re constantly cleaning them out. We had absolutely no problems. The water flows beautifully here. The ponds are back to where they need to be right now. There was no flooding.”
Poinciana has never had serious problems with flooding, noted Jeanette Coughenour, the manager of the APV. As Tropical Storm Debby was winding down, Coughenour said her office had not received any calls or complaints about flooding problems.
“I bet you there’s no issues whatsoever from Debby,” Coughenour said, adding that Poinciana’s 10 villages were too far inland to be vulnerable to flooding.
“We’re not Tampa,” she said.
Brown-Best said she’s tried to document this in the past, and so far unsuccessfully in convincing FEMA officials that rains in Poinciana don’t equate to flooding concerns.
“I made the case for that when we had some big rain last year, right after this whole thing started,” she said. “I said then, we had three inches of rain in a short period of time, and we had no problems. We have made that case.”
Now she plans to document the impact of Debby – or lack of impact – once again.
“I’m just waiting to hear back from FEMA about the result of all the surveys we sent in,” she said. “We don’t have problems with flooding over here, and we never have. You have certain areas where water might settle a little longer than other areas, but it goes into the retention ponds which are so well kept.”
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