Department of Neighborhood Advancement
Anywhere it rains, it can flood. A flood happens when areas that are normally dry get submerged with water. Floods are caused by many things, including rainstorms, slow water run-off, tides, storm surges, and hurricanes. Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters. Most communities in the United States can experience some kind of flooding after spring rains, heavy thunderstorms, or winter snow thaws. Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. Just because you haven't experienced a flood in the past, doesn't mean you won't in the future. Flood risk isn't just based on history, it's also based on a number of factors including: rainfall, river-flow and tidal-surge data, topography, flood-control measures, and changes due to building and development.
Like any other low lying coastal area, Portsmouth's elevation and proximity to water makes it susceptible to flooding. Nearly every year, and sometimes several times throughout the year during periods of heavy rain, hurricanes or nor'easter storms, residential and commercial properties are threatened by floodwaters.
Much of Portsmouth is susceptible to some level of flooding, and all property owners and renters are encouraged to contact an insurance agent to inquire about purchasing flood insurance.
Just because you haven't experienced a flood in the past, doesn't mean you won't in the future. Flood risk isn't just based on history, it's also based on a number of factors: rainfall, river-flow and tidal-surge data, topography, flood-control measures, and changes due to building and development.
What is a Floodplain?
Floodplains are low-lying lands next to rivers, streams, and oceans. A floodplain is any land area susceptible to being inundated by water from any source. When left in a natural state, floodplain systems store and dissipate floods without adverse impacts on humans, buildings, roads and other infrastructure. Natural floodplains add to our quality of life by providing open space, habitat for wildlife, fertile land for agriculture, and opportunities for fishing, hiking and biking.
Benefits of Floodplains - Healthy floodplains yield multiple benefits for the community including flood protection and erosion control, improved water quality, recharged aquifers, improved wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. Click here for more information.
Flood Insurance Rate Maps - 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 information about Portsmouth's Flood Maps.
Developing and Building in the Floodplain
Portsmouth City Code (Chapter 14) regulates development in the floodplain area. A permit is required for ALL construction and development (any manmade change) in areas designated as floodplain areas. An Elevation Certificate will be required be submitted for the property. City staff will take measures to ensure that improvements on existing structures and new construction are consistent with current regulations. Any illegal development in the floodplain should be reported to the Department of Permits and Inspections at 757-393-8531. Click here for additional information about developing in floodplain area.
In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to help provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP. Participating communities agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding. Click here for more information about flood insurance.
NFIP's Community Rating System (CRS) Program -
The City's Flood Program is Helping YOU!
Portsmouth is one of 21 Virginia localities actively participating in the NFIP's Community Rating System (CRS) Program. As a participant in the CRS program, we must perform regular flood prevention activities. CRS is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. The Floodplain Management Plan adopted by City Council outlines our strategy for flood prevention for the coming years. This document can be downloaded here.
We all know that there will be flooding in the future. We just don't always know when or where. However, by learning from the past, examining successful mitigation strategies, and implementing sound floodplain management programs, such as those credited under FEMA's Community Rating System, we can build more a resilient community for the future.
Because of this commitment to flood prevention, we have achieved a 5% discount (for our citizens in the flood hazard zones) on your flood insurance premiums! For more information on CRS, click here.
Department of Neighborhood Advancement, 4th Floor City Hall
801 Crawford Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Phone: 757-393-8522 Fax: 757-393-5108