WILKES-BARRE – Four Luzerne County municipalities were mistakenly listed as suspended from participating in the National Flood Insurance Program, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday.
Notice of suspension letters was sent to insurance companies covering property owners in Bear Creek Village, Bear Creek Township, Forty Fort and Larksville earlier this month, Peter Herrick, a FEMA spokesman confirmed Monday.
The mix-up occurred because the agency prepared and issued the letters around the same time it received information that the municipalities had updated their flood ordinances, he explained.
The ordinances went into effect on Nov. 2 to coincide with the effective date of new federal flood maps. Approximately 10,000 properties in the county were added to a high-risk flood zone, forcing owners to comply with tougher building regulations and buy flood insurance if they have outstanding mortgages.
A copy of a suspension notice letter provided to The Times Leader was dated Nov. 10. Another insurance document showed the same suspend and reinstate date of Nov. 7.
Herrick said that once the documentation was in hand, the agency reissued letters stating the municipalities are participating.
All of the communities are in good standing and are not suspended, Herrick said.
The mistake caused undue concern for Jim Brozena, executive director of the county Flood Protection Authority.
We actually saw something on this around the fifth of November, Brozena said.
But the correct information had already been provided and FEMA signed off on it, Brozena added.
Everybody has done what they needed to do, including the four municipalities, Brozena said.
Over the weekend, Andy Tuzinski, the EMA director for Forty Fort, received a few frantic calls from residents who thought the suspension was in effect.
Tuzinski said he checked on the FEMA website listing all the communities in the state participating in the flood program and verified Forty Fort was among them.
He also on Monday contacted Brozena, who then notified FEMA of the error.
He immediately sent documentation and said, ‘No guys, everybody's in compliance,' Tuzinski said.
He and Brozena advised property owners in the four municipalities who receive a suspension notice to check on their status.
If they get a letter like that, they should call their insurance agent just to do due diligence, Tuzinski said.