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FEMA's New Flood Maps Pressure Homeowners to Raise Their Houses

New federal flood maps will force thousands of houses onto stilts
Old Greenwich, Conn.: The Ekvalls are paying more than $300,000 to raise their home, which was damaged by Sandy
Old Greenwich, Conn.: The Ekvalls are paying more than $300,000 to raise their home, which was damaged by SandyCourtesy Peter Ekvall

When Catherine Porthouse bought a home in 2010 in the bayous of Louisiana, she didn’t worry much about the possibility of flood damage. Her house, in the town of Des Allemands, is shielded by marshlands and a levee and had no history of problems. Flood insurance wasn’t required, but she purchased a policy just in case.

In March, Porthouse got a rude surprise. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced at a town meeting that it had rewritten the state’s flood maps and added her house and hundreds of others to Louisiana’s flood zone. She was told she’ll have to raise her house 8 feet into the air and fill in the space beneath it. If she doesn’t, her yearly flood insurance bill will jump from $388 to $18,000. “I left in tears,” Porthouse says.