Residents and village officials agree: Hurricane Sandy was the storm that truly tested whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps of Valley Stream are valid. The consensus? They are not.
Much of the village was put into the high-risk flood zone when new maps went into effect in September 2009. Homeowners with federally backed mortgages had to buy flood insurance, and annual premiums for some exceeded $2,000 per year.
But many residents, particularly in the Gibson neighborhood, where thousands of homes were added to the flood zone, fought back, insisting the maps were wrong. Now, they say, Hurricane Sandy makes their case.
Flood insurance is designed to protect homes that would likely be affected by a coastal flood. Sandy, in fact, had a significant storm surge, peaking during high tide. Yet Gibson mostly remained dry.
“The storm that flooded us would have been Sandy,” said Gibson resident Carol Crupi, who has been leading the fight against the flood maps. “I can’t say it enough: Gibson does not belong in the flood zone.”
Mayor Ed Fare compared Sandy with Tropical Storm Irene, which came through last August. Sandy brought high winds and a coastal storm surge. Irene had much less of a surge, but brought more rain. Fare pointed out that neither of these two markedly different storms flooded Gibson.
Under the right conditions, the mayor acknowledged, any area could flood. But he rejected the notion that Gibson should be considered a high-risk area where flood insurance should be mandatory. “The conditions of Sandy, they didn’t flood. The conditions of Irene, they didn’t flood,” he said. “In two massive storms, Gibson didn’t flood. How many ducks have to be in a row for Gibson to flood?”
Gibson resident Joseph Margolin agreed that, based on the conditions it brought to Long Island, Sandy was the type of storm FEMA officials had warned about. “This thing satisfies every condition that they set beforehand, the storm of the century,” Margolin said. “We had trees down, but no floods.”