For up to date information on evacuation orders in Florida, please visit FloridaDisaster.org’s Evacuation Orders page.
Floridians generally have three questions about evacuations:
There are long and short answers to all of these questions.
When you’re planning, make sure to look up shelters in your area. For example, Brevard County residents can find a list of regular and pet-friendly shelters here.
Familiarize yourself with your county’s Know Your Zone page. It doesn’t take long to read through, but it likely contains pertinent flood zone information or specific guidance on local hazards or routes you should avoid in the event of storm surge or flooding.
Floridians generally don’t have to evacuate that far to get out of flood zones, but how far you go to get out of the wind and rain really depends on you and your family’s preferences and resources. Families generally don’t have to pack for long road trips, but you should be prepared since you may not be able to get back home right away.
You should familiarize yourself with your local area on this flood zone map.
Evacuations may be ordered based on the zone where your home is located. Zone A is closest to the coast and most likely to be affected by storm surge, while Zone F is usually the furthest inland flood zone.
On a large scale, all the zones are relatively close to the coast. It’s rare for coastal flood zones to reach more than a mile or two inland.
Only Northeast Florida has any “Zone F” areas, which are due primarily to low elevations and geography. Many East Coast areas along the Atlantic, like Brevard County, only go up to Zone E, and those Zone E areas are small compared to the higher risk zones.
Proximity to the coast doesn’t necessarily correlate exactly to flood risk. It’s possible for a Zone C area to be further inland than a Zone D or Zone E area.
Neighborhoods close to inland waterways, like the St. Lucie River near Port Lucie, are similarly at risk. Some of the neighborhoods right near the inlet aren’t in evacuation zones, but the neighborhoods near the river more than a mile inland are in Zone A areas.
There are Zone A areas around Lake George in Putnam County, for example, even though it’s well over 30 miles inland.
If you’re living near any rivers or bodies of water that connect to the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico (tidal bodies of water), you may be in an at-risk flood zone.
Another set of maps Florida homeowners should familiarize themselves with are those found in the FEMA Map Service Center. If you type your address or city into FEMA’s map center it will generate a flood map for you. These flood maps may impact flood insurance requirements for homeowners or businesses buying property with government-backed loans.
Property location may also impact floodplain management regulations for communities in these high-risk areas.
Even if you’re not required to get flood insurance in your area, it’s worth it to know the risk. A one percent chance of flooding isn’t nothing. Many people have suffered unexpected and unlikely floods and regretted not having paid a comparatively affordable premium instead of losing their home or business to a peril that wasn’t covered by their normal homeowners policy.
You may sometimes hear people talk about a flood being a, “once in a hundred-year event.” This is actually a specific measure that denotes the probability of a flood event in any given year – or a 1 percent probability. That doesn’t mean one of these floods will only happen once every hundred years, it just means the chance of it happening in any year is estimated at one percent.
Confusion over this term has resulted in a lot of costly mistakes for homeowners, especially when it comes to getting flood insurance. Home and business owners may adopt a false sense of security when hearing the descriptor used for their area, but the government is a bit more realistic about the risk.
It was in the 1970s when the federal government first drew up the guidelines that referenced the term. Those guidelines included requirements that any new structures built in 100-year flood zones implement special high-risk precautions, such as construction elevation and insurance requirements.
People living just outside of particularly high-risk zones aren’t immune to flooding. Nearly a fifth of all FEMA flood claims are from outside of designated flood zones (in the Houston area, between 30 and 40 percent of flood claims are filed by people living outside of designated flood zones).
People living near bodies of water in Florida – or really anyone living near a body of water in any state – should remember 100-year floods aren’t as rare as they may assume. If you’re living near a river, estuary, lake, lagoon or anything in between, it’s worth your time to look into your flood risk.