Norfolk Claims from the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program

Whether it's a hurricane or a Nor'easter or even a heavy rain event, most in Hampton Roads know -- water can wreak havoc.
Norfolk floods. The city has flooded throughout its history, but the severity and frequency of this flooding have increased over the last decades.  As sea level rise, land subsidence, and more frequent severe weather events converge, some who live here wonder:  "Has my home flooded before?", "Am I in a floodplain?" or even "Is my home going to flood this time?"   
Virginia law requires sellers to report flood damage to vehicles. No state statute or regulation requires such reporting for real estate sales. Sometimes buyers find out at closing when a lender requires flood insurance. Others find out when they have water rising in their home.
 In June 2019, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it would publicly release 50 million records from the National Floodplain Insurance Program (NFIP).
FEMA believes this historic release of NFIP data promotes transparency, reduces complexity related to public data requests, and improves how stakeholders interact with and understand the program. This is the largest, most comprehensive release of NFIP data coordinated by FEMA to date. This dataset allows for customizable searches to create reports, analyze and visualize present and historical NFIP data faster and easier than before. 
This data will help FEMA build a national culture of preparedness by providing claims and policy information people need to make better choices about their flood risk and the insurance they need to protect the life they've built. 
Norfolk's Open Data team extracted city-specific information from the FEMA dataset. The dataset included here represents almost 6,000 claims on record from 1977 through 2019, totaling 67 million dollars in damage in the City of Norfolk.

What does the NFIP data tell us?

Looking at the Numbers

First, a caveat: the NFIP data does NOT provide information specific to individual homes or parcels. This information is protected under federal law. All personal identifying information about policy holders has been redacted, and data has been anonymized to census tract, reported ZIP code, and one decimal point digit of latitute and longitude. If mapped, flood insurance policies and claims may appear to be clustered at a particular location due to this anonymization.
What all that means: you cannot search for an address to see whether it has flooded.
However, among many things, this data shows flooding trends in Norfolk over the last 40+ years. It shows the census tracts that flood most frequently. And it shows where the largest number and highest value of claims occur.

Historical Weather Events and the Number of Claims per Year

This data also shows spikes in claims that correlate to severe weather events that led to flooding. A review of the data back to 1977 shows:

Historical flooding events by year:
  • 1978 -  Nor'Easter   
  • 1998-1999 Hurricanes Bonnie and Floyd
  • 2003 -Hurricane Isabel
  • 2006- Hurricane Ernesto
  • 2009 - Nor'easter Nor'Ida
  • 2011 - Hurricane Irene
  • 2016 - Hurricane Matthew

Mapping the claims

This data can be mapped in Norfolk by grouping claims by year and census tract to show the locations with the largest number of claims. 

Claims by building type 

The FEMA NFIP data shows a greater number of claims for residential buildings versus non-residential buildings.
Single-family residences comprise the largest total number with 4,661 claims.

Number of Claims including Subgrade Floor Level

The data also shows how many claims on building structures have included subgrade floor levels such as basements, enclosures and crawl spaces. 

Building and Subgrade Floor Counts combined

These claims can also be assessed by combining the type of building (single family, apartments, non-residential) with the type of claims by floor level (basement, crawl space, enclosure.)

How Norfolk compares

The full NFIP dataset shows how Norfolk's flood claims compare to other cities in Hampton Roads.

The Technical Section

This dataset is derived from the NFIP system of record, staged in the NFIP reporting platform and redacted to protect policy holder personally identifiable information.
This dataset on the City of Norfolk's Open Data Portal represents only the claims for the City of Norfolk out of more than 2,000,000 nationwide claims transactions dating back to 1978.
Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA), 42 U.S.C. 4001 in 1968, creating the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in order to reduce future flood losses through flood hazard identification, manage floodplain, and provide insurance protection. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) originally administered the NFIP, and Congress subsequently transferred the NFIP to FEMA upon its creation in 1979.
FEMA and insurance companies participating in FEMA's Write Your Own (WYO) program offer NFIP insurance coverage for building structures as well as for contents and personal property with the building structures to eligible and insurable properties. The WYO program began in 1983 with NFIP operating under Part B of the NFIA and allows FEMA to authorize private insurance companies to issue the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) as FEMA's fiduciary and fiscal agent. FEMA administers NFIP by ensuring insurance applications are processed properly; determining correct premiums; renewing, reforming, and cancelling insurance policies; transferring policies from the seller of the property to the purchaser of the property in certain circumstances; and processing insurance claims.
The paid premiums of SFIPs and claims payments for damaged property are processed through the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF). NFIF was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 4001, et seq.), and is a centralized premium revenue and fee-generated fund that supports NFIP, which holds these U.S. Treasury funds.

We are so glad you're here! 

Feel free to view, download and manipulate this data. We provide this data as an affirmation of our commitment to transparency and community collaboration. We hope that you will use this data to improve your community, spark a business idea or just satisfy your curiosity.  Data will be updated and expanded often as we work to build a comprehensive open data portal.
Questions? Please contact us at 664-4007 or email