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Department of Neighborhood Advancement

Flood Insurance Rate Maps

What are flood zones?

Flood zones are geographic areas that FEMA has defined according to varying levels of flood risk and type of flooding. These zones are depicted on the published Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). Click here for detailed descriptions of the different flood zones.

Flood Zones

What flood zones require flood insurance?

Normally, flood insurance is required by lenders for properties located within higher risk flood zones (AE and VE). In the City of Portsmouth, the chance of flooding is real for everyone with our risk coming from both coastal and rain event flooding. It is recommended to obtain flood insurance even if it is not required to have it.


How do I find out what flood zone I am in?

Everyone is in a flood zone of some kind. There are four major zones: AE, VE, X Shaded, and X Unshaded.

  • Zone AE is a high-risk flood area
  • Zone VE is a high-risk flood area with the additional risk of wave action. 
  • Zone X Shaded is an area of moderate flood risk.
  • Zone X Unshaded is considered the area of minimal flood risk.


Some areas also have a Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA) shown on the FIRM. The LiMWA is the location where the one percent annual chance wave height equals 1.5 feet.  FEMA began showing the LiMWA on Flood Insurance Rate Maps to communicate the higher risk that exists in the area because the 1.5-foot breaking wave in the LiMWA zone can potentially cause foundation failure.

Paper copies of the FIRMs for Portsmouth may be viewed in the Department of Neighborhood Advancement on the 4th floor of City Hall.  For specific flood zone information, please contact the Department of Neighborhood Advancement at 757-393-8522.


Interactive Maps

Interactive maps can be found at the links below. Once you get to the map page, click on the blue question mark in the upper right corner for information. (It is recommended that you use Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer version 10 or higher in order to access the maps.)

Flood Map Updates

FEMA is conducting an in-depth, large-scale series of studies to re-examine flood hazards and related risks in the coastal communities including Portsmouth.  This will result in new a Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and associated Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) that will reflect up to date coastal flood hazard information.  The projected effective date of the new FIRMs is Spring 2015.

As a result, property owners throughout the city will have up to date, reliable and internet accessible information about their flood risk. Some residents and business owners will learn that their flood risk is designated as higher risk (or in some cases lower risk) than on the previous FIRM.

For additional information on the FEMA Region III Coastal Study, visit: www.riskmap3.com

FEMA has created an online site where the Current and Proposed flood maps can be viewed and compared side by side.  On this site, you can find out if your flood zone is expected to change.

Letters of Map Change (LOMC)

If a property owner thinks their property has been inadvertently mapped in a Special Flood Hazard Area ( SFHA), they may submit a request to FEMA for a Letter of Map Change (LOMC). A SFHA is defined as the area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. A LOMC reflects an official revision/amendment to an effective Flood Insurance Rate Map. If the LOMC request is granted, property owners may be eligible for lower flood insurance premiums, or the option to not purchase flood insurance. Only FEMA can change the maps.

Property owners may also wish to contact the FEMA Map Information eXchange (FMIX), toll free at 1-877-FEMA-MAP (1-877-336-2627) for assistance with the LOMC process. Interested applicants can apply for LOMCs online. Click here for details.

Click here for a listing and downloads of currently effective LOMCs in Portsmouth.



City of Portsmouth, Virginia · All Rights Reserved · Portsmouth City Hall · 801 Crawford Street · Portsmouth, VA 23704 · 757-393-8000