The City of Myrtle Beach offers flood prevention information for residential and commercial properties below. To download the city's Guide to Regulatory Floodplains and Flood Protection brochure, click here. For additional floodplain related materials, see the Documents Center webpage. For more information about the Zoning Code, visit the Planning & Zoning Department webpage.
"WHAT IS A FLOODPLAIN?"
Floodplains serve many useful purposes, and those that are preserved in their natural or nearly natural state provide a wide range of benefits. For example, floodplains and primary swash areas hold, filter, convey and disperse floodwaters. Without the preservation of these natural floodplains, floodwaters would inundate developed areas.
Five main swash areas exist within the City of Myrtle Beach....
- Bear Branch Swash
- Cane Patch Swash
- Deep Head Swash
- Midway Swash
- Withers Swash
The city owns approximately 11 acres of Withers Swash, which it preserves as a passive park area with a nature trail and picnic shelters. This swash provides wildlife habitats, breeding and feeding grounds for fish, and a high rate of plant growth.
NATURAL & BENEFICIAL FUNCTIONS OF FLOODPLAINS
Floodplains are areas adjacent to rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans that periodically flood. Floodplains are hydrologically important, environmentally sensitive and ecologically productive areas that perform many natural functions. They contain both cultural and natural resources that are of great value to society. Flood waters carry nutrient-rich sediments for a more fertile environment for vegetation, and floodplains benefit wildlife by creating a variety of habitats for fish and other animals. Flooding occurs naturally along every river and coastal areas.
Coastal floodplains include marshes, near-shore ocean bottoms, beaches, bays, coastal dune lakes, tidal flats and estuaries. And, coastal beaches, dunes, banks and tidal flats all play an important role in protecting land from the destructive coastal storms like hurricanes. Aside from major storm events where waves may overrun large areas, coastal systems' inundation follows a largely predictable tidal cycle. Coastal floodplains are important to estuarine and marine fisheries, too. Estuarine wetlands serve as important breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for marine fisheries and wildlife.
So, how do floodplains benefit humans? Floodplains provide cultural, educational, recreational and sceneic value to our lives. Due to the scenic value, floodplains are ideal locations for parks and campgrounds. Water sports and recreational activities like boating, swimming, hiking, fishing and camping all depend on floodplains. They serve as a nature study center for scientific research, too. Wildlife resources in floodplains can be managed for observation.
Understanding the importance of maintaining the natural functions of floodplains can lead to better floodplain management. Here are two helpful links....
- FEMA Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplains
- ASFPM Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplains
The importance of maintaining natural floodplains is not difficult to understand. Humans have always been attracted to floodplains because of their many sustaining attributes. Human development and industrialization, however, take a toll on the natural functions of the floodplains. Development in the floodplains causes a decrease in water quality, loss of wildlife habitats and an increase in severity and frequency of flood losses.
The City of Myrtle Beach adopted a Coastal Protection Zone in Article 18 of the Zoning Ordinance. The purpose of the coastal protection zone is to provide supplementary regulations for oceanfront property seaward of the projected 50-year erosion control line. Essentially, the regulations: help control erosion; preserve and maintain a recreational beach; safeguard property; and, promote public safety.
Most flooding in Myrtle Beach is caused by ocean water and rain that are driven landward by severe storms, such as tropical storms and hurricanes. Occasionally, heavy rains will cause localized flooding. Major flooding can occur along the beachfront and inland along the swashes.
Storm-driven flood waters along the beachfront can rise to heights of 15 to 20 feet above mean sea level, with destructive waves reaching even higher. Most of the land east of Ocean Boulevard/Beach Drive is in this floodplain. Low land near Midway, Withers, Deephead, Cane Patch and Bear Branch Swashes also is prone to flooding. Not only do hurricanes create floods, but they may cause erosion which increases the likelihood and severity of oceanfront flooding during subsequent storms.
"WHAT CAN I EXPECT IF A TROPICAL STORM OR HURRICANE APPROACHES?"
The City of Myrtle Beach offers a helpful Hurricane Preparedness webpage to answer many questions about hurricanes, including how to prepare beforehand and what to expect. To learn more about the city's Emergency Management function, visit the division's webpage.
"WHAT CAN I DO TO AVOID FLOODING IN MY HOME?"
The City of Myrtle Beach requires that all new residential structures in the regulatory floodplain be elevated no less than three feet above the base flood elevation. It may be possible to retrofit existing structures by various flood-proofing techniques. Information regarding retrofitting is available on FEMA's Overview to Retrofitting Methods webpage and Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting webpge.
Of course, the most effective and permanent means of protecting your structure is to locate it out of the floodplain. If you are unable to relocate your structure, the next most effective means is to elevate your structure above the base flood elevation.
The city's Planning & Zoning Department can discuss emergency, temporary and permanent alternatives with you and the Construction Services Department can help you obtain the necessary permits. Additional protection measures include:
- Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for floodproofing emergencies.
- Check with a plumber regarding a valve to prevent sewer backups.
- Make sure that drainage ditches are clear of debris and functioning properly.
- If you know that a flood is coming, move valuable contents upstairs or to a safe location.
Debris in drainage ditches, streams and pipes can cause localized flooding when it rains. City code requires all owners or occupants of property to remove obstructions from the drainage system on their property. Further, it is unlawful for any person to throw or deposit any refuse, trash or debris in any drainage ditch, stream or body of water. For questions, or to report obstructions or violations, contact the Public Works Department's Street Division at 843-918-2000.
In order to prevent localized flooding outside of special flood hazard areas, city code requires the minimum finished floor elevation for new construction to be at least 18 inches above the highest crown of any abutting street or 24 inches above the average grade of the lot. The lowest floor and all mechanical or electrical equipment must meet these elevation requirements. Further, final site grading shall insure that ponding of stormwater will not occur beneath the building nor nearer than three feet from the building perimeter or any mechanical or electrical equipment.
"IS MY HOME LOCATED IN A FLOODPLAIN?"
If you live in the City of Myrtle Beach, your property is in or near the flood hazard area as mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A map of the 100-year and 500-year floodplains within the City of Myrtle Beach is available here for your reference. A larger flood map showing lot-by-lot detail of flood zones and required elevations can be viewed in the Construction Services Department, located in the City Services Building, 921 Oak Street. Or, to view Horry County's online GIS map that shows floodplain zones, click here.
Certified Floodplain Managers are available in the Construction Services Department to assist you with maps and flood protection information and provide advice on retrofitting techniques for structures in the floodplain. Also available for review are current and past FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM), and topographical maps that show elevations of property within the city. FEMA FIRM maps, reference materials, pamphlets and videos also are available at Chapin Memorial Library.
"WHAT IS REQUIRED WHEN I APPLY FOR A BUILDING PERMIT IN A FLOOD PLAIN?"
The city’s zoning ordinance identifies portions of the city as being within the 100-year floodplain. In other words, there is a one percent chance of flooding in a given year. The zoning ordinance and building codes have special provisions regulating construction and other development within those floodplains. Without those provisions, flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program would not be available to property owners and renters in Myrtle Beach.
Before you build, fill or otherwise develop in a floodplain, contact the Construction Services Department at 843-918-1111 to discuss city regulations. All development in the regulatory floodplain requires an Elevation Certificate before, during, and after construction. A copy of the Elevation Certificate form is available online from FEMA at www.fema.gov/pdf/nfip/elvcert.pdf.
All development in the regulatory floodplain must meet the requirements set forth by the International Building Code and the city's Foodplain Management Zoning Regulations, Article 11. To view information about the International Building Code online, click here.
Copies of Elevation Certificates that have been submitted in the past are available for review from the Construction Services Department during regular business hours. Any development in the floodplain without a permit is illegal; such activity should be reported to the director of the Construction Services Department.
"I'VE HAD FLOOD DAMAGE TO MY HOME OR BUSINESS... WHO DO I CALL?"
A permit issued by Construction Services Department is required to make any repairs to flood-damaged buildings. Buildings with damage amounting to 50 percent or more of the building’s value must be removed or brought into full compliance with the floodplain regulations. Buildings existing in a flood plain that do not meet the current regulations may only be improved to less than 50 percent of the building’s value. Additions or alterations that are not a result of storm damage also are limited to less than 50 percent of the building’s value.
The requirements of the zoning ordinance and building codes are minimum standards that all development must meet. To increase the safety of your property and reduce insurance premiums, you should consider building to higher standards. Of course, the safest way to develop your property is to locate improvements outside of the flood plain.
For information regarding collection of flood damage debris caused by a storm, see our Storm Damage Debris Collection webpage.
"WHAT CAN I DO TO DECREASE MY RISK OF INJURY DURING A FLOOD?"
Residents of hazard areas can take the following actions to decrease the risk of injury due to flooding...
- Do not walk through flowing water. In standing water, use a pole or stick to determine depth.
- Do not drive through flooded areas and do not drive around road barriers. Roads or bridges may be washed out.
- Keep children away from flood waters, ditches, culverts and drains.
- Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Report downed power lines to the power company.
- Turn off all electrical circuits at the panel or disconnect all electrical appliances.
- Watch for animals, including snakes. Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours.
- Look before you step. After a flood, the ground and floors may be covered with debris, including glass and nails. Floors and stairs that are covered with mud can be very slippery.
- Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Do not smoke or use candles, lanterns, or open flames unless you know that the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.
"WHY DO I NEED FLOOD INSURANCE?"
If you have questions about whether or not you need flood insurance, consider the following:
- Maintaining a flood insurance policy is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and reduce the cost of flood disasters.
- Flooding is not covered by a standard homeowner's insurance policy.
- Flood insurance is available in Myrtle Beach due to the City’s participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
- Any walled and roofed building in an NFIP participating community is eligible, whether or not the building is located in a floodplain.
- There is a 30-day waiting period after a policy is purchased before coverage goes into effect. However, if a new or renewal policy is required by a lender as a condition for obtaining a mortgage, then the coverage takes effect at closing.
- Two types of coverage are available:
- Building coverage on walls, floors, insulation, furnace, and items permanently attached to the structure, except where excluded;
- Contents coverage for such items as furniture, appliances, and other household goods except where excluded. This coverage must be purchased separately from building coverage.
- Most forms of federal disaster assistance, including FEMA's Temporary Housing and Individual and Family Grant Programs, are only offered if the President declares a major disaster.
- 90% of disasters are not declared a disaster by the President.
- The most typical form of federal disaster assistance is a Small Business Administration loan that must be paid back with interest. The average duration and loan payment for a disaster home loan is 18.5 years and $140 a month.
- The average Individual and Family Grant is less than $2,500.
- Floods are the most common natural disaster. 80% of all disasters declared major by the President are floods.
- Buildings in flood hazard areas have a 26% chance of being flooded during a 30-year mortgage.
- The average premium for a National Flood Insurance Program policy in Myrtle Beach is $348.00.
- Homeowners, business owners, and renters can all purchase flood insurance as long as their community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Even if a disaster is not declared by the President, flood insurance claims are paid.
- Flood insurance reimburses you for all covered losses; disaster aid is limited to replacing essential items only.
- Homeowners can get up to $250,000 of coverage and businesses up to $500,000. Separate contents coverage also is available.
- Renters can obtain up to $100,000 of coverage.
More information about flood insurance is available from your insurance agent. To find an insurance agent in the Myrtle Beach area, click here. Since 1991, the city has participated in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System, which means premiums for flood insurance in Myrtle Beach are lower than they otherwise would be. The City of Myrtle Beach is a "Class 5" in the Community Rating System. For more detailed information about the Community Rating System (CRS), see https://www.floodsmart.gov/.
"I still have questions about my property and floodplains. Where can I go?" A map of the 100-year and 500-year floodplains within the City of Myrtle Beach is available here for your reference. A larger flood map showing lot-by-lot detail of flood zones and required elevations can be viewed in the City Services Building at 921 North Oak Street. Or, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.