Escambia Neighborhood Outside of FEMA Flood Zone Keeps Flooding

Escambia Neighborhood Outside of FEMA Flood Zone Keeps Flooding

Homes around Windsong Avenue and Surrey Drive in Escambia County do not sit in a flood zone, according to maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but residents say they routinely flood. 

  • The big picture: Residents, like Flood Defender Tommy Thomason, say they flood not only in major events — like 2020’s Hurricane Sally and April 2014’s 500-year flood — but also during routine rainstorms that Escambia receives several times each year.

  • The problem: Although not a classified flood zone, the neighborhood does have a county-owned stormwater pond. Unfortunately, the County constructed the pond without a positive outfall (the outlet for draining excess water). That’s a direct violation of the county’s own code, and when combined with the County’s poor maintenance, causes the pond to flood the homes it’s designed to protect.

Yes, but: These residents, many of whom do not have flood insurance, should live in a flood zone, according to new flood maps from the non-profit First Street Foundation. That research shows 30% of Escambia homes — including some around Windsong Avenue and Surrey Drive — are at risk and have a greater than 26% chance of flooding over the life of their mortgage. Unlike FEMA's maps, these maps factor in flooding from rainfall, the effects of adaptation measures, and expected changes in sea level and storm intensity.

FEMA's map doesn't show flood risk for Thomason’s neighborhood, unlike the newer map from First Street Foundation that shows a lot of flood risk.

The takeaway: Homeowners living around Windsong Avenue and Surrey Drive do not fall in a FEMA-designated flood zone and, therefore, are not required to buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. This leaves many without the protection they need. The county can help protect these vulnerable residents by enforcing stormwater rules on nearby road construction, fixing the faulty pond, and maintaining it.

Take action: Flood Defender Tommy Thomason and Flood Defenders’ Technical Advisor Chris Curb have asked the county to follow their own rules: Do not make flooding worse with road construction and install an outfall to make the pond effective. Join them and other Flood Defenders by demanding action from Commissioner Lumon May on flooding.