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Flooding is Kentucky’s #1 most frequent and costly natural disaster.  Not only is flooding Kentucky’s most common disaster, but its risk of happening can change over time.  These changing risks can be due to new development in the watershed, changes in weather patterns, or new and better data used in creating the maps.

Communities use Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to regulate their identified floodplains as part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  FIRMs are also used by insurance agents to rate flood insurance policies, lenders to determine if flood insurance is required with a federally backed loan, and property owners to understand their risk of being impacted by a flood event.  Knowing your risk enables you to take actions that can reduce that risk.

A flood zone is a spatial area on a map that informs you, and your community, about the severity of flood risk for an area.  Risk is shown on the maps using different Flood Zone designations that can indicate if your property is located in an area with a high, moderate, or low risk of flooding.  These areas with a high or moderate level of risk are depicted as shaded or colored areas on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).  In Kentucky, there are 4 primary types of flood zones shown on the map that indicate different levels of flood risk:  zone AE, zone A, shaded zone X, and zone X.  

Zones shown on the map with the letter ‘A’ are regulated floodplains.  These zones are the areas with the highest chance of a flood occurring.  Both zone A and zone AE are areas identified as having a 1%, or greater, annual chance of flooding in a given year; formerly these areas were called the 100-year floodplain.  If you live in an A or AE flood zone, you have a 26% chance of being flooded at least once during a 30-year mortgage!

State & local floodplain permits are required for development in A and AE zones.  These zones are also areas where the mandatory purchase of flood insurance is required with a federally backed loan.  In addition, AE zones show the identified Floodways and cross-sections with Base Flood Elevation (BFE) on the map. 

Shaded zone X areas are areas with a 0.2%, or greater, chance of flooding in a given year; formerly, these areas were called the 500-year floodplain.  The shaded zone X are areas with a moderate flood risk. Insurance is not always required with a federally backed loan in these areas; however, insurance is still available in these areas for property owners in NFIP participating communities.  Approximately 20% of all NFIP flood insurance claims come from shaded zone X areas.  Shaded zone X areas are generally found either along the edge of the 1% chance floodplain or in areas protected by an accredited levee or floodwall.

Zone X are areas at low risk of flooding; however, floods still can and do occur in these areas.  It is important to note that areas in zone X are still at risk; in fact, over 20% of NFIP flood insurance claims come from areas with a low flood risk.  Flood insurance is available to ALL property owners within communities that participate in the NFIP..  Anywhere it rains, it can flood.  Talk to your agent about a low cost, Preferred Risk Policy in zone X areas. 

Learn more about the different Flood Zone Designations.  Talk to your Local Floodplain Coordinator about your flood zone and how you can reduce your risk.


Flooding can affect anyone, regardless of your flood zone.  The flood maps can tell you if you are in a hazardous area that is subject to known risk of flooding.  The maps however do not tell you what your risk is in these hazardous areas.  For example, a flood with 3 inches of water is very different from one with 3 feet or 13 feet of water.  Understanding your flood risk is the first step in reducing those risks.

Managing how we develop in areas that are at the greatest risk of flooding can limit damages and negative impacts of floods to communities and individuals.  Any development in an identified floodplain in Kentucky requires a state and a local floodplain permit.  Talk to your community’s local floodplain coordinator about permits and about your local development requirements.

Flood insurance is available to all homeowners, business owners, and renters in NFIP participating communities to protect their structure, and its contents, from flood losses.  Learn more about why you need insurance and how you can purchase a flood insurance policy.


Digital flood maps have a wide range of potential uses and users. Citizens use the maps to see if their home or property is located within the floodplains. State and community officials use these products to administer floodplain management regulations and mitigate flood damage. Property owners use them to understand if their home or business is at risk of flooding. Lending institutions and federal agencies use the flood maps to determine whether flood insurance is required when making loans and providing grants for the purchase or construction of buildings.
 
Because we live in a digital age, and because of the great increase of data available, there are many ways that you can view and use digital floodplain maps.  These include federal, state, and local services and tools that show the effective flood maps, as well as preliminary map data, base flood elevations, engineering models, and inundation maps.  For a more in-depth coverage of how to view and use digital flood maps products, as well as images showing the different map products in use, download the Kentucky Viewing and Using Digital Flood Maps guide.


Kentucky Flood Hazard Portal

The Kentucky Flood Hazard Portal is an online map service that allows you to easily view all of the effective floodmaps for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This includes information such as the streams & rivers, the flood hazard zones, FIRM panel boundaries, panel numbers & effective dates, and areas where a Letter of Map Change (LOMA & LOMRs) have been issued.

Users can obtain ‘Approximate Base Flood Elevations’ (BFEs) in A Zones in 119 of 120 counties in the Commonwealth.  For BFE elevations in Jefferson Co., see the Louisville MSD information below. To get the BFE in one of the available counties, users must simply click the stream centerline of the stream or river next to their site.  A ‘Results’ box will appear that provides you the BFE for where you clicked. 
 
The BFEs available on the Portal can be used for actions such as floodplain permit applications, complying with floodplain building requirements, completing an Elevation Certificate, and for Letters of Map Change applications.  BFEs in AE zones are not available at this time from the portal and must be obtained from the County’s Flood Insurance Study (FIS) which are available for download on the Map Service Center.  BFEs for sinkhole flooding are currently unavailable on the Portal  and must be obtained manually by contacting KYriskMAP@ky.gov.

For Surveyors, Engineers, or other technical users, the Portal also allows you to download the HEC-RAS models used to create the effective flood maps. From the results box, click the ‘Download Mode Here’ link. This gives you the option of downloading the effective A zone HEC-RAS models, the Hydraulic and Hydrology Reports, and the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) for your location.

To assist everyone in using the Portal, the Division of Water has put together a User Guide to help.  If you require additional assistance, or have questions about the intended purpose or functionality of this portal site that are not answered by the user guide, please contact the Division of Water, by email at KYriskMAP@ky.gov or by phone at (502) 564-3410.



FEMA Map Service Center

The Map Service Center (MSC) is the official public source for flood hazard information produced in support of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Essentially the MSC is FEMA’s online digital library for all of the country’s flood risk information.  The MSC provides users access to the Flood Insurance Rate Map panels, Flood Insurance Studies, Letters of Map Change, and all other flood risk data.

Communities may have several different types of flood maps available at any time. The different types of maps may include Preliminary maps, Pending maps, Effective maps, and Historic maps. FEMA has made all of these map products available from the Map Service Center to view or for download.  Learn more about the different products and tools the MSC has to offer

Web Address: msc.fema.gov/portal 


Louisville MSD 

The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) oversees floodplain management for Louisville Metro Area.  Visit MSD’s Floodplain Management page to view Louisville specific flood maps or to look up a property’s floodplain status.  Effective models for the metro area are also available for download.



Preliminary Flood Maps

Flood risks can change over time. New development, water flow, & drainage patterns can change dramatically because of surface erosion, land use, and natural forces. Keeping a community’ flood maps up to date is an important step in helping a community protect lives and reduce property damage as a result of flooding.  

As the flood map updates occur, preliminary flood maps are available for community members and community elected officials to review.  These preliminary maps allows the public an early look at how the changes to the flood maps will affect their homes or properties.  While these preliminary maps are not for use in regulating the floodplains, they are made available to better inform everyone of their changing flood risks as well as to allow feedback on the changing maps.  Visit the Division’s Flood Map Updates page to see the preliminary maps available today and to learn more. 

Web Address: watermaps.ky.gov 

FEMA’s Map Service Center also has preliminary maps available for use and download.  Simply find your area of interest by entering it into the search bar, and then select the ‘Show All Products’ button.  From there you can select the ‘Preliminary Products’ or ‘Pending Products’ if there are any available for your area.  

FEMA developed the Preliminary Map Comparison Tool allowing users to view, save, and print copies of the Effective and the Preliminary maps side by side in a pdf format.  The Comparison tool’s webpage indicates which areas have Preliminary flood map available by highlighting the counties in Purple.  Users will be able to use this tool to create a side-by-side comparison of effective flood maps to the preliminary flood maps for each location in which they are interested.

Web Address: msc.fema.gov/fmcv 


Flood Inundation Mapper

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has developed a digital mapping program called the Flood Inundation Mapping program.  This program is designed to help communities protect lives and property by providing tools & information to better understand their flood risks and make cost-effective mitigation decisions.  The Flood Inundation Mapper combines the flood inundation map libraries with real-time river gauge information & flood forecasts into a tool that can help to communicate when and where it may flood.  This tool allows local responders to take actions and make plans that can protect lives and property before or during a flood.

This tool allows the user to select the elevation of the water at the gage using the ‘Flood Tools’ tab. The slider bar in this tab allows the user move the river stages up or down depending what river gage height or elevation they’re interested in, to see how the surrounding community would be affected.  Once a river gauge height has been selected, users can then click in the inundated areas to see what the estimated water depths would be at that gauge height.
  


ArcMap and NFHL Rest Service

For anyone with access to GIS software, FEMA has developed a geospatial database, which brings effective flood map data into your GIS program. This live data layer, called the National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL), is accessed via the web so when FEMA updates the data on their servers, the updates show up automatically in your projects. This allows you to have access to the most up-to-date floodplain maps, LOMA’s and LOMR’s, FIRM Panels, Base Flood Elevations, stream lines, and many other useful layers, without having to store and manage the data locally.  Download the Kentucky Viewing and Using Digital Flood Maps guide for a step-by-step process for adding the NFHL database into your ArcMap projects.



Risk MAP Update Process

The Division of Water is a Cooperating Technical Partner (CTP) with FEMA in updating Kentucky’s floodplain maps.  These map updates are completed as part of the Risk MAP program.  Risk MAP is an acronym that stands for Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning.  

Risk MAP updates the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to identify areas subject to inundation (i.e. flooding) during a 1% annual chance flood event (formally called the 100-year flood).  Several sources of information are used when updating the maps including hydrology, infrastructure, hydraulics, land uses, and existing maps such as effective floodplain maps and base maps.  Learn how flood maps are updated.  Beyond just the map updates, the Risk MAP program is also engaging communities and community officials to accurately map, communicate, and to mitigate their flood risks. 

During the update process, Risk MAP also creates new, enhanced products, which show flood risk information such as the depth of water during a 1% chance flood, or the percent chance of flooding over 30 years (typical mortgage lifespan).  These Flood Risk Products give communities and citizens a better understanding of not just are they at risk of flooding, but how will a flood affect me or my home.

Get answers to Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ) about Flood Hazard Mapping.  This FAQ provides information for groups such as homeowners, surveyors & engineers, lenders & insurance professionals, and floodplain managers. 


Letters of Map Change

When the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are created, they use the best available data at the time.  Occasionally though, properties may be incorrectly included in the floodplain.  When this happens, you can submit an application to FEMA for a formal determination of the property’s location and/or elevation relative to the floodplain.  This process is called the Letter of Map Change (LOMC)
  
For property owners with a single structure on a single lot, there is a simplified application called a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA).  Many LOMA applications require an Elevation Certificate to show a buildings elevation in relation to the Base Flood Elevation.  Learn more about applying for a LOMA and what documentation you may need to apply.   Projects involving multiple buildings, on multiple lots, or that were elevated on fill require a different application form. 

For additional help with changing the map, contact a FEMA Map Specialist.  Already applied for a LOMC? Look up the status of your Letter of Map Change Application.

AE Zone Model Download

The Mapping Information Platform (MIP) is a site that allows FEMA to provide data to interested stakeholders.  The MIP serves as the primary portal for the retrieval, and storage of flood hazard mapping data produced by flood studies Letters of Map Change (LOMC).

Most of the data available on the MIP can be found under the Tools & Links page, which enables users to search and download models and data for AE flood zones. This page also includes links to other mapping information, tools, and other resources.

Learn how to access and use the Mapping Information Platform.

Web Address: hazards.fema.gov


A Zone Model Download

For Surveyors, Engineers, or other technical users, the Kentucky Flood Hazard Portal allows users to download the HEC-RAS models used to create the effective flood maps. Users can click on an A zone stream centerline and a results box is returned which includes a ‘Download Mode Here’ link. From this link, users can download the A zone HEC-RAS models used to create the effective FIRMs.  Users also have the option of downloading additional supporting data such as the Hydraulic and Hydrology Reports for this site, or the effective Flood Insurance Study (FIS). 
 
Downloading A zone models through the Portal is available for all counties in Kentucky with the exception of Jefferson County.  Model requests for Jefferson County should be directed to Louisville MSD.
  
To assist everyone in using the Portal, the Division of Water has put together a User Guide to help.  If you require additional assistance, or have questions about the intended purpose or functionality of this portal site that are not answered by the user guide, please contact the Division of Water, by email at KYriskMAP@ky.gov or by phone at (502) 564-3410.

 

National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL)

The National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) is a geospatial database which brings effective flood map data into your GIS program.  This database are compilations of digital GIS data representing the same information presented on the FIRMs and in the FIS report.  The database includes flood hazard zones & labels, cross-sections & and their labels, Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) boundaries & case numbers, Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) boundaries, labels & effective dates, Community boundaries & names, Levees, and more. The NFHL allows you to have access to the most up-to-date floodplain maps, LOMA’s and LOMR’s, FIRM Panels, Base Flood Elevations, stream lines, and many other useful layers, without having to store and manage the data locally.  Download the Kentucky Viewing and Using Digital Flood Maps guide for a step-by-step process for adding the NFHL database into your ArcMap projects.