Why It Matters
Though Tybee Island has a relatively small population of 3,100 full-time residents, the population explodes to as much as ten times that amount during the summer season. As a mainly residential community, the homes on the Island are a foundational aspect of life for residents and vacationers alike. The homes on Tybee are also valuable assets to community members as they have an average value of over half a million dollars. Protecting these homes from sea level rise helps guarantee the health, safety, and financial stability of Tybee residents.
Tybee Island homeowners face challenges of flooding year-round, particularly during the hurricane season of June to November. Most of Tybee Island is in a high flood risk zone, and homes in these areas stand a 26% chance of experiencing flood damage over the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage. In recent years, flooding incidents have risen, leading to an increase in flood damage to homes. This is mainly due to extreme high tides or hurricanes. Following Hurricane Irma in 2017, approximately 165 properties filed claims for repetitive flood damage. These were properties that had previously flooded and were filing flood insurance claims for the second time or more. Flooding incidents can cause thousands of dollars in damage to homes leading to increased insurance costs for homeowners. Flooding damage can also displace residents while repairs are done which further disrupts life on Tybee.
What Tybee Island is Doing
Many actions to protect private properties fall on individual homeowners. However, Tybee Island's local government has worked to support residents in preserving their assets. Typically, homeowners’ insurance does not cover the risk of flooding. To help offset potential flood losses, the City of Tybee Island participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Properties in high-risk flood zones that have a federally backed mortgage are required to maintain flood insurance. Tybee also participates in the FEMA Community Rating System, a federal incentive program designed to encourage flood resiliency. The program rewards communities for adopting floodplain management ordinances, adhering to minimum standards for new construction and educating citizens about their flood risk. Tybee Island has a CRS rating of five, which is the highest rating achieved by communities in Georgia thus far. This translates into a 25% discount on flood insurance for residents in the Special Flood Hazard Area.
In addition to helping lower insurance costs, Tybee has invested in infrastructure to protect neighborhoods and helped to access federal funding to elevate flood-prone houses. In 2019, Tybee Island received a $1.1 million FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant to elevate 12 homes that were repeatedly damaged by flooding by recent hurricanes. Many of these properties are on the marsh side of the island. The City has applied for funding to elevate an additional 49 homes and is awaiting a decision on if it will be awarded.