FEMA Flood Risk Information


In 2015 shortly after FEMA announced they would be updating flood maps, the city convened a working group to perform a Local Flood Hazard Analysis (LFHA) for areas prone to flooding. The working group consisted of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), engineering faculty from Cornell University, Tompkins County Soil and Water District, Tompkins County Planning Department, and the City of Ithaca Department of Public Works (DPW).  The goal of the working group was to identify flood risks in the city and evaluate mitigation options before FEMA released their new flood maps.  At the outset the working group believed, and it was confirmed, that the 1981 FEMA flood maps greatly underestimated flood risks in the city. 

The USGS performed their flood study using state-of-the-art modeling techniques that were not available in 1981, which showed a significant increase in the flood inundation areas within the city.  The city hired the engineering firm Barton & Loguidice to use the USGS study and evaluate various mitigation strategies, and the results were published in February 2020. 

In February 2022, and again in January 2023, FEMA published draft and preliminary flood maps for review and comment.  FEMA used the same advanced flood modeling techniques used by the USGS but used more conservative assumptions in their model, resulting in similar but more extensive flood inundation areas.  Because of the similarities in the USGS and FEMA flood models, the city believes that the mitigation measures identified in the 2020 LFHA report are still valid. 

Informational Slides from Flood Concerns Presentation to common on Council 6-7-2023

DPW Flood Zone Presentation to Planning Board 2/28/23

Flood Insurance Information:  

  • Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federally underwritten program. You can buy an NFIP policy through any state-licensed property and casualty insurance agent. A specialized agent provides insurance options; they can help you decide which is best for you. Find an agent at FloodSmart.gov.  
  • Flood insurance requirements are based on current effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).  
  • To learn more about flood insurance, visit the NFIP websites at https://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance and http://www.floodsmart.gov.   
  • The NFIP provides flood insurance in more than 22,000 communities across the nation that have agreed to adopt and enforce sound floodplain management regulations.   
  • FEMA recommends that all residents and business owners buy flood insurance to help protect their financial investments.   
  • With a high percentage of rental properties in Tompkins County, renters are encouraged to consider contents-only flood insurance, which can help protect items inside of a unit in the event of a flood.   
  • Knowing where and when map changes are occurring will help community members know their best insurance options. Digital Preliminary FIRMs can be found at FEMA's FIRM Viewer of Tompkins County.  
  • Properties that are in the 1% Annual Chance of Flood Hazard (also known as the Special Flood Hazard Area, Zones A or AE, or 100 year flood zone) are the properties where federally backed mortgage holders are required to purchase flood insurance. Federally backed mortgages also include mortgages like those that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy off of lenders. Learn more on the FDIC's Flood Insurance FAQ.

Flood 1
Flood 2

Related Maps, Reports & Studies links:

USGS Flood Report

2020 Local Flood Hazard Analysis Report

Interactive GIS Flood Maps 

Preliminary FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMS):

The FEMA Flood Insurance Study (FIS): 

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