10 Facts Every Tybee Resident Should Know

Dated: September 29 2022

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10 Facts Every Tybee Resident Should Know

Did you know Tybee Island is located in a 100-year flood plain? Keep reading to learn more about flooding on the Island and how you can be prepared.

  1. Tybee Island Local Flood Hazard- As a Barrier Island, Tybee Island is at a greater risk of flooding. Before large storms, residents can expect heavy rains, gale force winds, and rising tides. Flooding is the highest cause of death during storms. Tybee's highest recorded storm surge was 19 feet above sea level in 1893! It is important to make sure to follow all local emergency recommendations, including evacuation, and be aware that HWY 80 may flood out during heavy storms and cut off access to the Island. 

  2. Protect Your Property and Stay Safe- At no charge, residents can find out what flood zone they are in by calling the Tybee Island Department of Planning and Zoning at 912-472-5030. Chatham Emergency Management Agency can tell you about the city's flood warning systems at 201-4500 or Tybee Island Emergency Management at 912-472-5062. Comcast Channel 7 is also a great resource to learn about storm updates, evacuation routes, and location of emergency shelters. Make sure to stay out of flood waters in order to prevent the risk of electrocution from downed power lines. 

  3. Flood Insurance- The City of Tybee Island participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In doing so local insurance agents can sell a Flood Insurance Policy, which is separate from regular property insurance, at subsidized rates set by the Federal Government. The Federal Government passed a law making it mandatory for owners to obtain a Flood Insurance policy if the structure is in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and the loan is federally backed. All of Tybee Island is located within the SFHA. Flood Insurance can cover the structure alone or cover a combination of the structure and contents. Renters can buy coverage for contents, even if the owner does not have structural coverage. A new insurance policy is now available that assists in bringing a non compliant structure up to the NFIP standards if the building is substantially damaged or repetitively flooded. Flood Insurance is available for structures outside the 100 year flood plain (Zone X). There is normally a 30day waiting period before flood insurance goes into effect. Therefore, it is essential to plan ahead. Contact your insurance agent to get a flood insurance policy. And remember, your home owner’s insurance policy does not protect you from flood damage. Tybee Island subscribes to the Community Rating System (C.R.S.) and by doing so flood insurance policy holders in the special flood hazard area receive a discount on their policy cost.

  4. Property Protection- Electrical panel boxes, heat pumps, washers, dryers and water heaters should be elevated or relocated to areas less likely to flood. Elevate and anchor fuel tanks. Raising the furniture and other valuables on blocks also will offer protection. If you have a basement, take preventive measures from flooding due to sewer backup or sump pump failure by having a check valve installed. Know what options there are to retrofit your house.Retrofitting means to alter the building to eliminate or reduce flood damage. There are several options to consider: elevation,flood barriers, dry floodproofing, and wet flood proofing. It is a good idea to keep materials around the house like sandbags, plywood, lumber and plastic sheeting. These can help minimize the damage caused not only by flood waters, but damage by hurricane force winds too. The Public Works Manager is prepared to make site visits, upon request, to assist property owners with flooding, drainage and sewer problems and to address any site-specific flooding concerns within the Community. This service is provided at no charge. For additional information on flooding, flood insurance, flood zones,retrofitting, how to pick a contractor, obtain an elevation certificate, coastal A zones, additional BFE depth, past flooding, or environmentally sensitive areas or wetlands, you may call the Department of Planning & Zoning at 912-472-5030. Contact the Department of Planning & Zoning if you are interested in elevating your building above the flood level or selling it to the City. We may apply for a Federal Grant to cover 75% of the cost. An elevation certificate is available for review in the Planning &Zoning Department for all properties constructed in the Special Flood Hazard Area since December 1992.

  5. Natural and Beneficial Functions of FLood Plains-  Natural FloodPlains generally include marsh areas and low lying areas along canals. Our Natural FloodPlains reduce damage by allowing flood waters to spread out over large areas which helps facilitate absorption into the ground, reduces flow rates and serves as a flood storage area to reduce downstream peaks. We should all do our part to help keep our floodplain and flood plain waters free of contaminants such as oil, paint, antifreeze and pesticides. These chemicals pollute the marsh waters, thus decreasing the water quality that local wildlife depends upon for their habitat. Chatham County has barrier islands such as Ossabaw, Cabbage and Wassaw islands. These Islands serve as a natural barrier to incoming hurricane forces such as wave attack, and serve to reduce tidal and wind energies. These Islands serve as natural aquatic habitats, wetlands, marshes and estuaries.

  6. Flood Warning System- In Chatham County, the Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) manages the flood warning system. Once CEMA receives a potential dangerous warning, sirens will be activated. These sirens can give as little as 15 minutes warning time. When you hear the sirens, information can be heard on the television (WTOC, WSAV, orWJCL) or on the radio at WCHY (94.1) on what to do. Information can be heard on the NOAA weather radio broadcast frequency at 162.40. Local evacuation routes can be found in the phone book. For additional information, contact CEMA at 201-4500 or visit the website at be www.chathamemergency.org. There is a test of the Siren System on the First Wednesday of each Month at 12:00 Noon.

  7. Permit Requirements- There are certain things you need to know when considering this question. The Tybee Island Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance requires that all construction, additions, conversions and/or development comply with certain minimum standards intended to minimize damage from floods. For example, houses and certain other structures are required to be built one foot above the 100-year base flood elevation. The Tybee Island Zoning Ordinance requires that building permits be obtained from the Planning and Zoning Department. The Tybee Island StormWater Management Ordinance has restrictions on the placement of fill in special flood hazard areas. The City Land Disturbing Activities requires permits for certain land disturbing activities and requires soil erosion control best management practices for construction even if a LDA permit is not required. To obtain a building permit contact the Tybee Island Department of Planning & Zoning at City Hall, 403 ButlerAvenue, Tybee Island, Georgia or phone them at 912-472-5030. All Development must have a permit. If you see someone working without a permit or for additional questions or concerns about permits, please do not hesitate to call.

  8. Substantial Improvement Requirements-  Any substantially improved or substantially damaged home must be brought up to the NFIP and City’s Flood Ordinance requirements. This is known as the 50% rule. The “50% Rule” states that if the lowest finished floor of an existing house is below the base flood elevation (BFE) and the cost of repairs or renovations will increase the structures original Fair Market Value by more than 50%, then the lowest finished floor elevation must be raised or elevated to one foot above the BFE. In VE zones within the City the bottom of the lowest horizontal member must be brought up to one foot above the BFE. Also note that additional City flood plain requirements may apply.

  9. Drainage Maintenance System- Besides flood insurance, you should protect your structure by ordinary preventive means. For example, do not sweep or blow yard leaves, pine needles, grass clippings or soil into the street or storm water system. This clogs up the pipes and prevents water from draining. If your property is adjacent to a drainage ditch, please aid the City by keeping the banks clear of brush and debris. Dumping in ditches is prohibited as stated in the City’s Stormwater Management Ordinance. To report someone dumping trash in the canals, storm drainage system, and drainage ditch or to request needed maintenance of drainage facilities, please contact the Department of Public Works at 912-472-5043.

  10. Tybee Island Flood Zone Areas-  All of Tybee Island is located in a flood plain, you can review flood zone map information at www.sagis.org or by visiting the office of Planning & Zoning located in City Hall.

To read more, please visit the City of Tybee Island Website. 


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Jenny Rutherford

Meet Jenny Rutherford Jenny Rutherford Real Estate, LLC. Where did you grow up? I grew up on a farm at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I've lived in several states, including Virgi....

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