Thousands of Biloxians now in the flood zone

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Thousands of Biloxi homeowners woke up Friday morning in a new flood zone. Changes to flood plain map took effect on May 1st, so now almost the entire area from Main Street to Point Cadet is considered a flood zone. The change could affect how much people have to pay to build and insure homes.

Thanks to volunteers, Ellis Brown says his East Biloxi home has been restored. Even after nine feet of water flooded the house, Brown says he didn't buy flood insurance after Katrina.

"I didn't have the money at the time right after the hurricane," said Brown. "They still hadn't told me until a couple of months ago that I am in the flood zone now."

Biloxi city officials say people new to the flood zone, who have not bought flood insurance, should do so soon because now the government considers those people a higher risk.

Council member Bill Stallworth, whose ward is affected by the change, said, "If you didn't live in a flood zone yesterday and you are in a flood zone today, then what happens is particularly if you haven't got your flood insurance, those rates are going to change on you dramatically."

Stallworth said anyone who has a house under construction is grandfathered into the old elevation requirements. But people who have only permits may have to change their design plans and pay about 10 percent more in building costs.

He says that's a blow to building back East Biloxi.

"It really hurts the effort in the long haul because people didn't have all the money they needed to have to begin with to rebuild a home," said Stallworth. "Now it just means we need to find a whole lot more money to build that same home."

In this economy, residents say the last thing they need is to have to pay more money.

Homeowner Artis Cook said, "If they increase prices, it's going to affect everybody. It's tight, you know."

Councilman Stallworth said people in East Biloxi need to buy flood insurance as soon as possible to lock in the lower rates. He said coverage that runs about $400 a year now is expected to jump to $1,200 to $1,400 a year because of the higher risk of being in a flood zone.

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