Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 2, 2013

Grand Traverse County is deemed 'StormReady'

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County’s severe weather readiness could lead to cheaper flood insurance costs that loom for some residents.

The county earned a National Weather Service “StormReady Community” designation because it has four ways to both receive and disseminate information about dangerous weather.

“The more ways you can have to do that, the more prepared you are in case you need to go to backup plan B, plan C, or plan D,” said Jim Keysor, a warning coordination meteorologist with NWS.

The StormReady designation means county officials are prepared to spread warnings about severe weather, especially tornadoes and flash floods, quickly so residents have enough time to reach safety, county Emergency Management Supervisor Gregg Bird said.

The designation also could result in lower rates for federally mandated flood insurance that could confront some residents.

Homeowners with mortgages who live within flood plains designated on risk maps created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are required to purchase flood insurance, county Administrator Dave Benda said.

FEMA officials started creating a flood plain risk map in Grand Traverse County in 2012, but the process hasn’t yet been completed, Benda said. For now the county has no flood plain map from FEMA and it’s unclear if or when that will change.

Bird said county officials are working with FEMA to enroll in a voluntary rating system that rewards communities that surpass minimum flood prevention and mitigation requirements with lower insurance premiums for residents. The StormReady certification is one way to surpass minimum standards.

Both processes are backed up on the federal end because of budget cuts and widespread staff turnover at the regional office that oversees FEMA operations in Michigan, county officials said.

Calls to the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program regional office were not returned.

Tight federal budgets also mean the county won’t immediately receive “StormyReady Community” road signs that are suppose to come with the StormReady designation.

“With the sequester and and budget cuts they’re on back order,” Bird said of the signs.

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