Are you prepared?
According to renowned storm researcher Dr. William Gray and his associates from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, the trend of increased hurricane activity, which began in 1995, is expected to continue.
Hurricane Hugo demonstrated on September 21, 1989 that most of the property on the Isle of Palms is at a definite risk of flooding. A storm surge of 15.0 feet above mean sea level washed over most of the Island causing millions of dollars in flood damage. These facts and predictions are a reminder to be prepared!
Due to the fact that the Isle of Palms is a barrier island with a low elevation above sea level, you are either in or very near a flood plain. Therefore, all properties at risk should be well insured.
Now is the time to determine if you are adequately insured against the threat of potential flooding. There is a thirty day waiting period after application before flood insurance coverage becomes effective. Don't wait until it's too late to get your flood insurance. Be prepared!
What to do before a flood?
Check your flood hazard.
The greatest risk of flooding on the Isle of Palms result from Atlantic Ocean hurricanes and the storm surges they create. First, it's crucial to determine which flood zone your property is located in. If located in an "A" Zone, your property is within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). If located in a "V" Zone, your property is subject to wave action, in addition to rising water. Flood maps and flood insurance information are both available at Charleston County Public Libraries.
Site-specific flood data, such as historical flooding in the area, are provided by the Building Department. Upon request, site visits, which evaluate property to review its flood, drainage, and sewer problems and to explain appropriate retrofitting flood protection measures, may also be arranged by the Building Department.
Purchase flood insurance on your property.
Flooding is not covered by a standard homeowner's insurance policy. A separate flood insurance policy is required to cover damages incurred by flooding. Flood insurance is available for buildings only, contents only, or both buildings and contents. Insurance agents should be contacted for specific policy information. Even if your property is already covered by flood insurance, review that coverage annually to ensure that your limits are high enough, keeping in mind, there is a 30-day waiting period before the insurance becomes effective.
Contact the National Flood Insurance Program
Maintain drainage channels and pipes free of obstruction and debris.
Due to its low elevation, the Island drains very poorly, and debris in the drainage system can exacerbate this problem. If your property is adjacent to one of the Island's many ditches, your vigilance will help the City keep the storm drainage system flowing properly. Please report debris in any ditch to the Public Works Department. If the Island is again subjected to a hurricane storm surge and/or torrential rains, then ditches may be crucial to minimizing any flood damage.
Protect your property from the hazards of flooding and wind.
The most effective method to avoid flood damage is to elevate a structure above the base flood elevation. However, there are other retrofitting alternatives to a house built below the flood plain including constructing barriers, wet flood proofing, and dry flood proofing.
Constructing a barrier, such as a berm of compacted fill, between a house and floodwaters can be an effective retrofitting technique. An example of a helpful dry flood proofing method is to make a building's walls and floor watertight, to prevent water from entering the building.
Dry flood proofing is an option only appropriate for buildings on sound slab foundations that are subject to less than 3 feet of flooding. The degree of flood proofing can vary from a basic waterproofing compound application to the walls, to a more secure method involving coating the lower 3 feet of the outside walls with waterproofing compounds and plastic sheeting.
Wet flood proofing is another retrofitting technique, which involves modifying the structure and relocating the contents so that there is little to no damage when floodwaters enter the building. As a final attempt to ward off rising waters, The Isle of Palms Building Department can advise you how to use plastic sheeting, plywood, and sandbags to serve as a defense against flood damages.
All new construction and substantial improvements to existing structures are required to meet current flood zone elevation requirements. A structure is considered substantially damaged when the cost of restoring the structure to its pre-damaged condition equals or exceeds 50 percent of the fair market value of the structure before the damage occurred. A list of contractors and consultants knowledgeable of flood proofing and retrofitting techniques is available at the Charleston County Public Libraries and the Building Department.
How to be prepared in the event of flooding?
Keep an emergency supply of nonperishable food, water, batteries, flashlights, a manual can opener, and a battery operated radio available. Remember, property owners without Wild Dunes stickers will be required to have hurricane reentry stickers displayed in the windshield to be admitted back on the Island. Questions regarding these stickers should be directed to City Hall.
In the event of a hurricane watch or warning, both the Charleston County Emergency Preparedness Division and the local news media will keep the public advised of the latest developments. Up to the minute information will be available on TV channels 2,4,5,6,24, and 36 and radio stations 910, 1250, 1390 (AM) and 95.1, 96.1, 96.9, and 104.5 (FM).
What to do during a flood?
If your property is in danger of flooding, turn off the electricity off at the main disconnect. If gas appliances are in danger of being disconnected by flooding action, shut off the gas at the main disconnect.
Local television and radio stations will broadcast updates as they are posted by the National Weather Service. If evacuations are required, it is imperative that instructions are followed. If Charleston County Emergency Preparedness calls for an evacuation of the barrier islands, it is because dangerous flooding is imminent. Street patrols and door-to-door notifications may be used if the evacuations are mandatory. Generally, residents are given 48 to 72 hours notice in advance to a hurricane.
Questions regarding emergency procedures may be directed to Charleston County Emergency Preparedness Department.
Avoid driving and stay alert for emergency instructions. If dangerous flooding conditions are imminent, avoid driving a vehicle if possible. Do not attempt to drive or wade through deep pockets of water or running washes. Unstable banks should be avoided.
Avoid low-lying areas. Seek shelter in the highest areas possible.
What to do after a flood?
In the event of damages, follow established procedures for property damage repairs:
Select a contractor who is licensed in his/her trade.
The City requires contractors to be licensed/registered with the State and to have a City of Isle of Palms Business License. Require your contractor to obtain the proper permits for work being performed. Permits are required for any permanent improvement (including reproofing, siding, alterations, etc.) to a structure and for site work (including grading, filling, etc.). Accordingly, permits are required for almost all types of construction, including work done by the homeowner himself. If you observe what appears to be unauthorized construction, please contact the Building Department.
Stay away from power lines and electrical wires.
If you observe downed lines, contact the Isle of Palms Police or Fire Departments, or SCE&G. Even if the power is still on, don't use appliances or other electrical devices that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
Watch out for live animals, especially snakes.
Any animals driven from their homes by flooding may try to take shelter in yours. Be mindful not to put yourself at risk of being bitten while removing debris. If you encounter any animals, please contact animal control.
Look before you step.
After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris that might injure you through puncture wounds from nails or broken glass. Also be aware that deposited mud will be very slippery until it dries.
Be alert for gas leaks.
Many Island residents use liquid propane as an energy source. Although the City's Fire Department has instituted a program to register, locate, and secure leaking LP tanks after a storm, approach any tank as if it is an explosion hazard. Don't smoke, light candles, lanterns, or other open flames anywhere near an LP tank unless you are certain that the gas has been turned off. If the Fire Department has already secured the tank, it will be marked with fluorescent paint.
If you use a generator for power after a storm/flood, only use it outdoors. If used indoors, you run the risk of being killed by the odorless gas, carbon monoxide, released by the generator's engine.
If a hurricane is predicted to strike anywhere near the Isle of Palms, the safest place to be is elsewhere! The best (and safest) evacuation route off of the island is the Isle of Palms Connector, S.C.
What should you do now?
With the threat of flooding being so apparent, there are now more than 3,675 separate flood insurance policies in effect on the Isle of Palms, covering in excess of 650 million dollars worth of property. Mortgage lenders, real estate professionals, insurers, and property owners can all benefit from a free official flood zone determination. Non-resident property owners should be especially interested in this service. They may have little or no knowledge of the flood zone development issues, or the desirability of maintaining flood insurance coverage. The technical assistance the Building Official provides can also include floor elevations, information on historical flooding, and advice/information on how to select qualified contractors to build in flood zone hazard areas.
Keep in mind that the floodplains and wetlands provide a wide range of benefits. Water quality is improved through the
Wetland's ability to filter nutrients and impurities from runoff and process organic wastes. These areas provide breeding and feeding grounds for fish and wildlife, create and enhance waterfowl habitat, support a high rate of plant growth and maintain biodiversity and the integrity of the ecosystem. Floodplains provide green space for protection of rivers from development and forces of erosion.
FOR MORE FLOOD INFORMATION: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources