The Local Flood Hazard

For the majority of the city, the primary causes of flooding are tropical systems and afternoon thunderstorms, which generally occur from June to November, during the rainy seasonal.  Certain areas of Panama City are low-lying and subject to flooding from rising water.  Specific areas include along the coastline of St. Andrews Bay and the various bayous connect to the bay as well as low lying wetland areas interior to the City.  The other flood problem involves stormwater runoff that occurs in many locations.  This problem continues to become more critical as the volume of stormwater runoff increases due to development in areas subject to urban flooding.  Many homeowners and businesses do not carry flood insurance, which can result in high uninsured losses.


The Flood Warning System

Residents should be aware that Bay County has a Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan (CEOP) that includes a variety of warning systems, outlined below, to provide citizens with up-to-the-minute information on impending storms or flood threats.

Bay County Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
The Bay County EOC works with the cities, the National Weather Service, and the National Hurricane Center to monitor flood and storm threats and advise the community accordingly.

The following radio and television stations service the Bay County area:
WFSY 98.5 FM, WPAP 92.5 FM, and WJHG TV News Channel 7.

Bay County Emergency Operations Plan
When a storm or flood threatens to impact the county, the Emergency Management staff monitors the event.  The staff relies on information from the National Weather Service for detailed and site-specific information regarding storm conditions and flood threats.  Emergency Management staff issues updates, warnings, and evaluation notices.

Flood Safety Measures

You can protect yourself from flood hazards by taking measures to ensure the safety of life and property before, during, and after a flood occurs.

Do not walk through flowing water.  Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths, mostly during flash floods.  Currents can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.  If you walk in standing water, use a pole or stick to see how deep the water is.

Do not drive through a flooded area.  More people drown in their cars than anywhere else.  Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.

Stay away from power lines and electrical wires.  The number two flood killer after drowning is electrocution. Electric current can travel through water.  Report downed power lines to the power company or County emergency management office.

Flood Insurance

For many people, their home and its contents represent their greatest investment.  Property losses due to flooding are not covered under most standard homeowners’ insurance policies.  You can protect your home and its contents with flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The NFIP is a federal program established by Congress in 1968 which enables property owners to buy flood insurance at reasonable rates in participating communities.  In return, participating communities carry out flood management measures designed to protect life and property from future flooding.

The NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through its Federal Insurance Administration.  The City of Panama City has participated in the NFIP since 1992.

To find out more about flood insurance for your property and its contents, contact your insurance agent.  There is usually a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect, so don’t wait until a storm threatens before you secure the flood insurance you need.

The following chart lists the amount of maximum coverage available to property owners within Panama City:

BUILDING COVERAGE
Single Family Dwelling $250,000
Other Residential $250,000
Non-Residential $500,000
Small Business $500,000

CONTENTS COVERAGE
Residential $100,000
Non-Residential $500,000
Small Business $500,000

Property Protection Measures

Every year, flooding causes more property damage in the United States than any other type of natural disaster. While recent construction practices and regulations have made new homes less prone to flooding many existing structures remain susceptible.  Throughout the country, there is a growing interest from property owners to develop practical and cost effective methods for reducing or eliminating exposures to flooding.  Several effective ways include acquisition and relocation of a building to a site not subject to flooding, construction of floodwalls or berms to keep water away from the property, or retrofitting structures to make them floodproof.  Retrofitting is a different approach to the other ways because the property itself remains subject to flooding while the building is modified to prevent or minimize flooding of habitable space.

There are several recognizable approaches to retrofitting:
  • Elevation of the structure above flood protection levels.
  • Construction of barriers (floodwalls, berms).
  • Dry floodproofing (permits entry and passage of floodwaters).
When a flood threatens, it is always advisable to take the following emergency actions:
  • Sandbagging to reduce erosion and scouring.
  • Elevate furniture above flood protection levels.
  • Create floodway openings in non-habitable areas such as garage doors.
  • Seal off sewer lines to the dwelling to prevent the backflow of sewer waters.
There sources for financially helping you with Flood Proofing your home the following can be done:

  • Community Development Block Grants are provided to larger cities and counties; smaller communities can apply to the state community development agency. 
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will support elevation and flood control projects as part of a larger flood protection program.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service can help fund retrofitting and local flood control projects in smaller watersheds.
  • Flood insurance claims can include Increased Cost of Compliance funding, which is described in Figure 430-5.  This provision provides additional coverage to help underwrite a flood protection project that is required by code as a condition to rebuild the flooded building.  It can also be used to help pay the non-federal portion of a cost-shared retrofitting project.  The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004 provides for this coverage to be made available, in most cases, for insured structures for which offers of mitigation assistance have been made under certain federally funded mitigation programs.
  • Many states and regional or county flood control districts have their own funding programs or will help on the non-federal cost share of a federal program.
  • Many communities have developed financial assistance programs, especially for sewer backup and local drainage problems, where mitigation projects may be relatively inexpensive.
  • More and more communities are starting rebate programs, similar to Floodville’s (described in Figure 500-3b).  These cost the local government relatively little, but act as an effective catalyst to motivate the owner to retrofit.

For financial assistance programs to protect your individual building or home can be found on a Local Flood Proofing Programs, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2005, available at http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/nfpc/docs/Local_FP_Programs_February_2005.pdf.

Floodplain Development Permit Requirements

Any development in the floodplain requires a Panama City Development Order and a Bay County Building Permit according to Section 2 of the Panama City Comprehensive Planning and Land Development Regulation Code.  If you need a flood zone determination contact the Panama City Engineering Department at 872-3015. If you need a copy of a completed FEMA elevation certificate, call the Bay County Builders Services at 784-4039.  If you suspect that illegal floodplain development is occurring, call Panama City Code Enforcement at 872-3038.

Additionally, in accordance with NFIP standards, if the cost of any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvements to a building equals or exceeds 50% of the building’s market value, such work is considered a substantial.  The existing building is then required to meet the same standards as a new building.  For residential structures, these requirements typically mean raising the living area of the building to the base flood elevation.

Substantial Improvement Requirements

Substantial improvement shall mean any repair from damage or destruction, reconstruction, improvement, or additions of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50% of the assessed tax value of the structure as is listed by the Bay County Tax Assessors Office or by a certified appraisal.  The assessed value of the structure shall be determined before the improvement is started, or if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage or destruction occurred.

Drainage System Maintenance

A community can lose a portion of its drainage system carrying or storage capacity due to dumping, debris, soil erosion, and sedimentation, and overgrowth of vegetation.  When this happens, flooding occurs more frequently and reaches higher elevations, subjecting properties otherwise protected to unnecessary risk of damage.  Keep grass clippings and other debris out of stormwater drainage systems to prevent clogging and loss of stormwater storage and treatment capacity.

If you experiencing any flooding problems, including illegal stream dumping, please notify the Panama City Street Department at 872-3175 or the Engineering Department at  872-3015 and someone from our office will visit your site so the problem can be corrected.

For more information on floods, contact:

Engineering Department
9 Harrison Avenue
Panama City, FL 32401

Telephone: (850) 872-3015
Fax: (850) 872-3077
Email: engineering@pcgov.org