What Is The Risk Of Flooding In Lee County?

In Lee County, flood risk generally results from two types of storm events: wave surge from hurricanes that can cause coastal flooding & heavy rainfall, and the natural flow of water south through the Florida peninsula (often referred to as “sheet flow”) that may cause flooding along rivers, creeks, and canals.

As part of its Local Mitigation Strategy, Lee County Public Safety conducted a formal assessment of the flood risk in Lee County.

FEMA updated information about the principal flooding problems in unincorporated Lee County as part of its 2014 Coastal Discovery Report, which can be viewed at www.leegov.com/dcd/flood, along with the detailed flooding history in FEMA's 2008 Flood Insurance Study for Lee County.

Prepare for Hurricanes

Before a hurricane or storm approaches:

  • Prepare a go-bag for your family and pets.
  • Obey evacuation notices.
  • Report blocked ditches, swales and canals.
  • Learn more at: www.leegov.com/publicsafety

Know Your Flood Hazard

Learn your flood hazard, flood zone & map information by visiting: www.leegov.com/dcd/flood  

You can also

  • Learn about historic flooding in Lee County in FEMA's 2008 Flood Insurance Rate Study and 2014 Coastal Discovery Report www.leegov.com/dcd/Documents/FloodMapping/FEMAFloodZones/2014DiscoveryReport.pdf 
  • Look up your flood zone: leegis.leegov.com/floodzone
  • Download or print flood maps and other flood related documents. Flood zones, which begin with an "A" or a "V", require flood insurance if the property is mortgaged.

Protect Home & Property

People:

Property:

  • Ask your community floodplain manager about flood protection assistance.
  • Jurisdiction staff provides one-on-one advice to anyone interested in protecting their building from flood damage.
  • Some instances may include a site visit followed by a written summary of the flood problem and recommended alternatives.  The reviews may include how elevating a building, retrofitting flood openings, and having the proper enclosed areas can reduce flood insurance premiums.
  • Visit FEMA's virtual library to learn how to protect structures:

How Does Lee County Address Flood Emergencies?

Lee County joined the National Flood Insurance Program in 1984.  As a result:

  • Lee County property owners may purchase flood insurance policies through the NFIP.
  • FEMA will provide disaster assistance in Lee County in the event of a federally declared disaster.
  • FEMA routinely assesses the risk of flooding here and updates Flood Insurance Risk Maps.

In addition, Lee County and all of its municipalities participate in the NFIP's Community Rating System, which provides a discount in the cost of the flood insurance policy. More information is available online - www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

Choose Your Flood Warning System

In addition to traditional communication through mass media, Lee County Emergency Management will notify residents individually of dangerous flooding through multiple methods of outreach:

  • LeePrepares - Download this free app to find your evacuation zone and sign up for evacuation text notifications. Shelter locations, preparedness information and local weather is provided.  Available through both Apple & Android stores.
  • AlertLee - Sign up for this free service to receive phone calls, texts and/or email about significant emergencies or critical protective actions needed to safeguard life and property.  Register at www.AlertLee.com.
  • Facebook – This Facebook page posts real-time updates about emergency conditions and always offers general preparedness information.
  • Twitter – There are two Twitter accounts: 
    • @LeeEOC - offers purely emergency information.
    • @LCEMFL - offers also includes general and preparedness information.
  • IPAWS – Lee County Public Safety is a FEMA Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS) Alerting Authority.  We can utilize the IPAWS to alert and warn Lee County residents and visitors about serious emergencies through various means, including the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

You can learn more about participating in all of these at www.LeeEOC.com.

Flood Zones & Surge Zones are NOT the Same

Flood zones are routinely used for flood insurance ratings and some building code requirements.

Evacuation zones are used in emergencies. When a storm is approaching, it is time to know your Evacuation zone. For more information, visit: www.leegov.com/dcd/Documents/FloodMapping/FEMAFloodZones/FloodZoneVSEvac.pdf

After the Storm

  • Do life-saving & damage mitigation immediately.
  • Get a permit for permanent repairs.
  • Be cautious about ground water, food safety and dehydration.
  • Register for Individual Assistance: In a Federally Declared disaster, if your property/structure was damaged, immediately apply for Individual Assistance (IA) with FEMA even if you do not need IA immediately.  This will ensure you are in the system to be eligible for SBA loans even after the IA registration deadline has passed. www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

Flood Zone Information or Copies of Elevation Certificates (IF on Record)

For properties in city limits call:

  • Bonita Springs – 239-444-6150
  • Cape Coral – 239-574-0553
  • Fort Myers – 239-321-7000
  • Fort Myers Beach – 239-768-0202
  • Estero – 239-319-2811
  • Sanibel – 239-472-3700

For all other properties not within city limits (also called unincorporated Lee County), call: 239-533-8585

Build Responsibly

  • Get a permit before you build; check with your jurisdiction to see if your project requires a building permit.
  • Know the safety and insurance benefits of exceeding minimum standards.
  • Before you remodel, learn about flood regulations and building codes.
  • If your property is in the Special Flood Hazard Area, it must meet a base flood elevation and other National Flood Insurance regulations. Learn about them at: www.leegov.com/dcd/flood/defined.
  • Consider the advantages of building higher than the base flood elevation. Doing so will lower the cost of flood insurance and will lessen the risk of flood damage.
  • Agricultural buildings in the Special Flood Hazard area (A, AE or V zone) are not exempt from NFIP Program construction requirements, even though they are exempt from the Florida Building Code.
  • Fill & construction are prohibited in regulatory floodways unless the work is permitted by a No Rise Certification.

Insure Your Property

  • Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reports that nearly 20% of flood insurance claims are for properties in moderate to low-risk areas. 
  • Buy flood insurance for your home. Buy flood insurance for your contents.
  • You don't have to own your home or business to get an NFIP policy. The NFIP offers insurance for renters' possessions.
  • Most property/casualty insurance does not cover flood damage. The NFIP, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is a federal provider of flood insurance policies.
  • Flood insurance is required for mortgages on structures in areas designated as a Special Flood Hazard Area & Coastal High Hazard Area.
  • Live In a low-risk flood zone? Take advantage of the preferred rate policy for flood insurance. 
  • If you don't have a mortgage and are not required to have flood insurance, consider getting an NFIP policy anyway.  Recovering from flood damage is expensive. Just one inch of water can cost up to $27,000 or more in repairs.
  • In addition to the insurance coverage, it may also be an advantage if you sell the property to a buyer who finances with a mortgage. The policy may transfer to the new owner, possibly offering some cost savings.

    Learn more about flood insurance at www.fema.gov or call 800-427-241

 Protect Natural Floodplain Functions

  • Protection and restoration of natural flowways and maintenance of drainage ditches, weirs and canals, sewer systems and other water conveyances helps to ensure proper surface water management to mitigate the effects of storms or sheet flow.
  • Local jurisdictions maintain the water conveyances in public rights of way, and private property owners are responsible for clearing and maintaining drainage conveyances on private property. 
  • Don't block natural flowways.
  • If you have a concern about maintenance of a drainage conveyance, contact the building or Community Development department for your community.
  • For property in unincorporated Lee County, call the Request for Action Hotline at 239-533-9400 or fill out the Request for Action Form online at www.leegov.com.

"100 year flood" MISCONCEPTION

You may have heard the term "100-Year Flood Zone" and think "A flood like that only happens once in every one hundred years." Unfortunately, that is an old adage and is untrue. The SFHA (Special Flood Hazard Area) is an area that has a one-percent chance, or a one-in-one hundred chance, of a flood happening in any given year. That means a "One Hundred Year" flood could happen this year, and again next year. It has nothing to do with calendar years. The term "100-year flood" is now referred to as the "1% annual chance" flood.


Drainage Systems

Drainage Systems Require Maintenance

Lee County is interlaced with a system of canals, ditches, and waterways that serve to direct the flow of floodwater. It is most important that these elements of the floodwater drainage system be kept clear of debris and trash that could impede the flow of water during a flood situation.

To report drainage problems in incorporated areas call your city Public Works. In unincorporated Lee County, Call Lee County DOT at 239-533-9400 or email rfa@leegov.com. After 5:30 pm and on weekends call 239-533-3626.

Dumping of debris and trash in the drainage system or alteration of the channels is prohibited. Violators should be reported to law enforcement or public works officials.

Further information on flood mitigation techniques, such as flood proofing and elevation can also be found at the website for the Federal Emergency Management Agency: www.fema.gov/hazus/prevent-disaster-losses.