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Floodplain Information, City of Falls Church, VA


Anywhere it rains, it can flood. The classical definition of a flood is a general and temporary condition where normally dry land is inundated by water. In the City of Falls Church, flooding is typically caused by major storms with heavy precipitation like hurricanes, inadequately sized or clogged drainage systems, intense periods of rainfall, and breakages of water mains.

It is important to know that although your property may not have experienced a flood in the past, this does not ensure you will not in the future. Flood risk is not based on history. Instead it is based on a number of factors, including: rainfall amounts and intensity, river-flow and tidalsurge data, topography, soils, and changes in land use stemming from development.

For more information on flood hazards, or to report a non-emergency flooding problem in the City of Falls Church, please contact the Department of Public Works at 703-248-5350.

The traditional approach to identify potential flood prone areas is by studying watersheds and then using computer modeling to determine stormwater runoff in our streams and storm drainage system. The Department of Public Works maintains a local stormwater model that analyzes several theoretical storm events. These events are based on statistical probability, and named after the frequency with which they are expected to occur (e.g. 2-,10-, 100-year storm events). For example, a 2- year storm represents a rain event that statistically should occur once every two years. The longer the frequency, the more intense the rain event becomes. In this case, the 100-year storm represents a massive rain event that should occur once a century. It is important to note, however unlikely it is, a 10-year storm can occur several times in a given year or on back to back days.

Many residents are unaware of the flood risks here in the City of Falls Church. To identify a community's flood risk, FEMA conducts a Flood Insurance Study. The study includes statistical data for stream flow, hydrologic/hydraulic analyses, and rainfall and topographic surveys. FEMA uses this data to create the flood hazard maps that outline a community's different flood risk areas. A copy of the current Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) can be viewed here. The floodplain shown on the FIRM was developed using the 100-year storm event and represents a 1% chance that flood elevations along the Tripps Run and Four Mile Run stream corridors meet or exceed those shown on the map. Contact the Department of Public Works for assistance in determining base flood elevations for your property.

Click here for Residential Rates

Click here for Commercial Rates

The City of Falls Church participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP makes federally backed flood insurance available for all buildings, whether they are in the floodplain or not. Flood insurance covers direct loss caused by surface flooding, including a river flowing over its banks, a lake or ocean storm, and local drainage problems.

The National Flood Insurance Program has an arrangement with private insurance companies to sell and service flood insurance policies. Two types of flood insurance coverage exist: structural and contents. Structural coverage is for the walls, floors, insulation, furnace, and other items permanently attached to the structure. Contents coverage may be purchased separately provided the contents are in an insurable building. Your local insurance agent can describe the breadth of coverage and restrictions.

If your building is located in Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) AND federal or federally related financial assistance is associated with the building then you must purchase flood insurance. If you purchased, constructed, repaired or improved a structure within the SFHA with federal monies derived (in totality or only in part) through federally backed loans or grants then this mandatory purchase flood insurance applies. This requirement also applies to machinery, equipment, fixtures, and furnishings contained in such building.

The requirement also applies to secured mortgage loans from financial institutions, such as commercial lenders, saving and loan associations (e.g., savings banks, and credit unions) that are regulated, supervised, or issued by federal agencies such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of Thrift Supervision, which is to say most mortgage lenders. It also applies to all mortgage loans purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in the secondary mortgage market.

Before a person can receive a loan or other financial assistance from one of the affected agencies or lenders, an elevation certificate must be obtained to determine if the building is in a SFHA. The SFHA is the base (100-year) floodplain mapped on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). On a FIRM areas contained within zones that begin with the letter "A" are considered within SFHA.

Copies of the FIRM are available for viewing at the City of Falls Church Department of Public Works, 300 Park Avenue, Falls Church or online here. Many lenders and insurance agents also have copies.

Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

During a Flood:
  • Listen to the radio or television for information.

  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

If you need to leave your home during a flood:
  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.

  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

The City of Falls Church has promulgated floodplain ordinances to regulate development in the floodplain in order to protect the interests of the public. They can be found in Chapter 48, Division IV of the City Code. A link to the City's code on Municode can be found here.

The departments of Public Works and Development Services work to regulate uses, activities, and development which, alone or in combination with other existing or future uses, activities, and development, will cause unacceptable increases in flood heights, velocities, and frequencies. Moreover, they require all uses, activities, and developments that do occur in floodprone districts to be protected and/or floodproofed against flooding and flood damage.

During the City's permitting process, properties flagged as in or immediately adjacent to the 100-year floodplain are reviewed by the City Civil Engineer for compliance with the above mentioned code sections.

The Department of Public Works manages, maintains, and repairs the City's storm water conveyance system. The system includes 140,000 linear feet of storm drain, 1,400 appurtenances, and 8,100 feet of stream channel in the Four Mile Run and Tripp's Run watersheds. In order to maintain this network, the City must comprehensively clean and inspect each storm drain line every year. Without these efforts the city would be at a greater risk for localized flooding.

In addition to ongoing maintenance and repair work, the Department of Public Works leads other related efforts to more effectively manage rainwater to reduce flooding and improve water quality. Moreover, City staff administers various programs and activities in order to comply with an array of related regulations that include the Federal Clean Water Act (e.g., National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

City Code Section 42-171 prohibits persons from discharging or depositing anything other than stormwater runoff into the storm drainage system. Additionally, the code prohibits obstructing public drainage facilities.

If you would like to report a drainage concern or an illicit discharge you can call the Department of Public Works at 703-248-5350 or use our online reporting system here.

Being prepared for a flood can not only help keep your family safe, it can also help minimize potential flood damage and accelerate recovery efforts. Using FEMA & we have put together a few suggestions about ways you can protect your home from flood damages.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.

  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home Seal the walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.

  • Make sure your sump pump is working and then install a batteryoperated backup, in case of a power failure. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.

  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.

  • Raise your electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your homes projected flood elevation.

To learn more about what you can do to protect your home, we encourage you to visit FEMA's website. You can also contact the City of Falls Church Building Official in the Department of Development Service at 703- 248-5080. Additional information items can be found in the Mary Riley Styles Public Library catalog at 120 North Virginia Avenue, Falls Church, VA.

The National Flood Insurance Program
Sunday, April 20, 2014
  Contact Us
300 Park Avenue
Suite 100 West
Falls Church, VA 22046

703-248-5350 (TTY 711)
703-248-5336 fax

8 a.m.-5 p.m.