It's 5:15 p.m. Monday, just two hours into the flood information program, and most of the homeowners leaning over tables in the Lynn City Hall auditorium lobby have the same question.
Is their home in the flood zone under the new preliminary flood maps for Essex County?
Answering that question are Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives.
FEMA employee Eric Eidswick — one of six attendents sitting behind tables like clerks on voting day — says people are of two minds.
If they find out their property isn't in the flood zone they are overjoyed, sort of like the woman who is told that her family's heirloom vase is worth $500,000.
The other reaction, if their property is in the flood zone, is worry, he said, because it may mean that they will be paying higher flood insurance premiums.
Eric and the other attendants unroll and leaf through large maps, the panels rustling on the table.
They click through pages on FEMA laptop computers finding flood maps and showing people how to navigate the online world. They show the people how to investigate insurance implications.
Eric explains terms such as base elevation and certificate of elevation and what a 1 percent storm is.
A 1 percent storm is what the agency use to refer to as a 100-year storm.
Basically, it is a storm that has a one in a 100 chance of taking place in a given year.
He recommends that neighbors join together to have a certificate of elevation done in their neighbrohoods. It will help to have this documentation if a flood should hit.
The visitors are from Essex towns and cities including Marblehead and Swampscott, Danvers and Salem.
One man, from Saugus, has found out that part of his property is out of the flood zone and part of his his half-acre lot is in the flood zone.
The new flood map went preliminary on June 3. It is subject to dispute, review and corrections before going into effect next summer.
The second part of Monday's forum was a presentation in the auditorium proper on why the maps changed.
Below is a link to the preliminary flood maps on FEMA’s website. There are two drop down menus, choose “State” and “County," and it will bring you to the whole list of maps that are being updated in Essex County, as well as the Flood Insurance Study report and the digital products.
For further information, contact Colleen Bailey at A.Colleen.Bailey@state.ma.us or (617) 626-1446.