Flood Safety & Preparedness

Nine flood safety and preparedness facts that every McIntosh County and Darien resident should know:

1. McIntosh County's Local Flood Hazard - Because various locations of McIntosh County and Darien are located within low-laying coastal plains, these areas are susceptible to flooding from rivers and canals. As a coastal community, the county is also subject to flooding from hurricanes. The St Catherine's Sound, Sapelo Sound, Doboy Sound, and Altamaha Sound all intersect the County and contribute to the threat of flooding. There is a link at the bottom of this page that allows you to view of map of the flood zones within the County. Additional links allow you to look up your specific property to determine what flood zone it falls within  

2. You Should Know Your Flood Hazard - You are encouraged to check with McIntosh County or the City of Darien to find out what flood zone you are in and what the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is for your property and neighborhood. The City and County provide this lookup service and have additional information about flood hazards and how to protect yourself and your property. You can get a good idea of your flood zone from the map. A link to a general County-wide flood map is provided below. You can also look up a property by address using the Georgia Flood Map website.

There are specific measures you can take to protect yourself from floodwaters. Learn how to turn off the gas and electricity to your house and do so if flooding is imminent. Be sure not to try to walk through flowing water or drive through flooded areas. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths followed by electrocution. Electrical currents from downed power lines and your home circuits can travel through water causing a safety hazard. Stay out of floodwaters! Additional information can be found on FEMA's website at www.fema.gov.

3. Flood Insurance - The City and County participate 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. Typical homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood-related damage, so it is important to purchase a separate flood insurance policy, especially in a low-lying coastal area like McIntosh County. The Federal Government passed a law making it mandatory for owners to obtain a Flood Insurance policy if the structure is in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and the loan is Federally backed. 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 non-compliant structures up to the NFIP standards if the building is substantially damaged or repetitively flooded. Flood insurance is also available for structures outside the 100-year floodplain (Zone X). For more information on flood insurance or to find an agent, visit the National Flood Insurance Program's website at www.floodsmart.gov.

4. Property Protection - To protect your property, electrical panel boxes, heat pumps, washers, dryers, and water heaters should be elevated or relocated to areas less likely to be subjected to floodwaters. Anchor and elevate fuel tanks. Raising the furniture and other valuables on blocks also will offer protection. 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 flood-proofing, and wet flood-proofing. There are several references in the public libraries on retrofitting and additional documents pertaining to floodplain management topics. Documentation is also available at the City, the County, and using the links below. It is a good idea to keep materials around like sandbags, plywood, lumber, and plastic sheeting. These materials can help minimize the damage caused not only by floodwaters but damage by hurricane-force winds too.

City and County Staff are prepared to make site visits, upon request, to assist property owners with flooding, drainage, sewer problems, and to address any site-specific flooding concerns within your community. This service is provided at no charge. For additional information on flooding, flood insurance, flood zones, retrofitting, or how to pick a contractor, you are encouraged to contact the City or County. For questions about these services or to schedule a site visit, contact the County Building and Zoning Department at 912-437-6603.

5. Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplains - Natural floodplains generally include marsh areas and low-lying areas along canals; such as the Darien River, Altamaha River, Butler River, Blackbeard Creek, and the various Sounds. These natural floodplains reduce damage by allowing floodwaters 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 floodplain waters free of contaminants such as oil, paint, anti-freeze, and pesticides. These chemicals pollute the marsh waters that the local wildlife depends upon for their habitat.

The Coast of Georgia has many barrier islands. These islands serve as a natural protective barrier to incoming hurricanes forces such as wave attacks and serve to reduce tidal and wind energies. These islands serve as natural aquatic habitats, wetlands, marshes, and estuaries. Sapelo Island, St Catherine's Island, Wolf Island, and the other islands found within the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area are good examples of barrier islands and the protection and natural functions they provide to McIntosh County. Click on the Open Space Map below to view natural areas within the County. 

6. Permit Requirements - There are certain things you need to know when considering this question. The Flood Damage Control Ordinance requires that all construction, additions, conversions, and or development located in areas of special flood hazard 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.

To obtain a building permit, contact the County Building and Zoning Department at 912-437-6603, or visit the County's website. If you see someone working without a building permit, if you see someone illegally dumping, or if you have any other questions or concerns about permits, please do not hesitate to call.

7. Substantial Improvement Requirements - Any substantially improved or substantially damaged home must be brought up to the NFIP and the requirements of the Flood Damage Control Ordinance. 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 finish floor elevation must be raised or elevated to at least the BFE. In the AE and/or VE zones within McIntosh County and Darien, the bottom of the lowest horizontal member must be brought up to one foot above the BFE. Also, note that additional floodplain requirements may apply. If you are considering making improvements to your property, you are encouraged to contact the County Building and Zoning Department at 912-437-6603 to learn about permit requirements and other potential issues.

8. Drainage System Maintenance - 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 stormwater system. This clogs up the pipes and prevents water from draining. If your property is adjacent to a drainage ditch, please aid the City and County by keeping the banks clear of brush and debris. Dumping in ditches is prohibited. To report someone dumping trash in the canals, storm drainage system, drainage ditch, or to request needed maintenance of drainage facilities, please contact the County Building and Zoning Department at 912-437-6603.

9. Flood Prone Areas - You can review the flood zone map information on the Georgia Flood Map website or by visiting Darien City Hall or the County Annex. Additionally, the Department of Building and Zoning stores copies of FEMA Elevation Certificates for buildings constructed in the floodplain. Contact the County Building and Zoning Department at 912-437-6603 if you are looking for flood information to find out if they have an elevation certificate for a particular property.