Did You Get a Visit From Sandy?

Caveat emptor reigns supreme when purchasing a previously flooded home or building.

For months after SANDY hit our area, I was inundated with calls for help! My US Coast Guard shipyard and construction base experience, engineering training, and assistance with the development of the 2000 FEMA Coastal Construction Manual was valuable in helping my clients sort through their personal disasters.

Post-Sandy construction requirements overwhelmed the availability of qualified contractors and building code inspectors. Construction officials often allowed reconstruction without consideration for higher flood elevation requirements to expedite home owners returning to their homes. Insurance companies complicated the situation by using biased people to degrade the damage or misinterpret the federal flood insurance exclusions.

Homes and buildings flooded by super storm Sandy need extra due diligence before purchase.  FEMA published Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) recommendations shortly after Sandy that provides guidance for the necessary elevation to reduce risk of flood damage. The ABFE value should be understood for the location of a pending purchase.

In my opinion, it is prudent risk management to meet the ABFE requirements. For years, FEMA and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) have recommended a Coastal A zone where moderate wave action is expected.  NJ has not yet adopted this as a building code requirement. A FEMA Velocity zone is based on expected waves of 3 feet or higher. The ABFE maps show the limit of moderate wave action (LMWA) where waves of between 1.5 feet and 3 feet are expected.  FEMA and ASCE have recommended Velocity type construction for homes within the LMWA which essentially means upon pilings without lower barrier walls. The pending preliminary FIRM maps have significantly less elevation requirements.