National Flood Insurance Program

The Town of Pawleys Island is a participating community in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which means that you can purchase flood insurance to protect your property against the hazard of flooding.

You don’t necessarily have to live near water to be flooded:

  • Floods can be caused by heavy storms, hurricanes, northeasters, and extremely high tides.
  • Just an inch of water on your property can cause costly damage.
  • Most property insurance policies do not cover damage caused by flooding.
  • Federal disaster assistance requires a Presidential declaration, which happens in less than 50% of flooding events.
  • The most typical form of Federal disaster assistance is a loan that must be repaid with interest.
  • Average flood policy with $100,000 in building coverage costs $400 a year, versus a monthly disaster loan payment of $240 for many years on a $50,000 disaster loan.
  • A flood policy will pay covered losses even if a disaster is not declared by the President.
  • In most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period after you purchase a flood policy before coverage is in effect, so don’t wait until a flood is threatening.
  • Flood insurance can be purchased on eligible residential buildings and/or their contents, or tenants can purchase contents-only coverage.
  • The Town of Pawleys Island is a participant in the NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS), which means that residents receive a discount on their flood insurance premiums in recognition of efforts made by the Town of Pawleys Island to reduce the impact of flooding.
  • Your property within the Town of Pawleys Island is located in Flood Zones AE or VE, which are high-risk areas.You have a 26% chance of being flooded during a 30-year mortgage. Compare this to your 4% chance of having a fire during that time. Do you have fire insurance?
  • Copies of Elevation Certificates can be obtained from the Building Department of Georgetown County.
  • A video of Hurricane Hugo’s destruction in 1989 is available for checkout at the Waccamaw Branch of the Georgetown County Public Library at 4 Commerce Street in the Community of Pawleys Island.
  • The Head of the Waccamaw Branch Library has obtained and catalogued one copy of the FIRM, Flood Boundary and Floodway Map, FEMA’s booklet on FIRMs, and several documents on flood insurance, protecting a building from flooding and community flood hazard mitigation.

Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the No. 1 cause of flood deaths. Currents can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. If you walk in standing water, use a pole to continuously monitor the depth and velocity of the water.

Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Don’t drive around road barriers; the road may be washed out ahead.

Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The No. 2 killer – after drowning – is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines.

Return to inspect your property from a mandatory evacuation. Be prepared to receive a daily pass to evaluate damages to your property.

Look before you step. After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris, including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with sand can be very slippery.

Be alert for propane leaks inside your dwelling. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns, or any open flames. The gas must be turned off at the tank and the area must be well ventilated. If the tank is missing, report it to the checkpoint when turning in your pass.

Be alert for electrical hazards inside your dwelling. Some appliances, such as television sets, keep electrical charges even after they have been unplugged. Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.

Flooding in our Town can be caused by two things: A storm surge with wave action against a structure and rising waters from the salt marsh from extremely high tides or storms. Your property may be high enough that it has not been flood damaged by storms. However, we all know that the next storm can be worse. This Flood Protection Information gives you some ideas about what you can do to protect yourself and your property.

Elevation Certificate: The elevation of your house, as evidenced by an Elevation Certificate prepared by a professional engineer or licensed land surveyor, should be high enough to minimize flooding damage in storms or floods. Unless the height of the lowest structural member of your house meets the requirements of the Pawleys Unified Development Ordinance (which is patterned after FEMA regulations but requires an extra three feet of elevation) the odds are that someday your property may be damaged by a storm or flood. For more information see

Town’s Flood Services: The first thing you should do is check your flood hazard by looking at your Elevation Certificate. The lowest structural member of your house should be above the highest flood zone on which your house is located. For new construction or substantial remodeling it should, in most cases, be three feet above the applicable flood zone.

Also, flood maps and flood protection references are available at the Waccamaw Branch Library at 41 St. Paul Place on the mainland across US 17. Thirdly, visit to find the Pawleys Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Contained in the UDO are the Town’s Flood Damage Prevention Regulations (generally patterned on FEMA requirements) and the Sand Dune Protection Regulations.

What You Can Do: Should you determine that you may have a flood exposure or a potential flood exposure, you may decide to engage an architect, engineer, or contractor to evaluate your options and costs.

A couple of easy references to be examined are “Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions” and “Examples.” To access “Examples” and other Unified Development Ordinance files, you need Adobe Reader, which can be downloaded free at “Examples” will be explained by the beginning introduction, “A Quick Analysis Tutorial.”

Flood Proofing and Retrofitting: Protecting a building from flood damage can be accomplished in several different ways. One approach for dwellings that have water flooding less than two feet deep is by making your walls waterproof and placing a watertight closure over the doorways. For dwellings with greater flooding probabilities, you might consider converting the ground living space to storage by removing all the electrical and plumbing systems and providing hydrostatic vents in opposing walls. Still, a third approach would be raising the house above the flood levels.

More information is available in the Waccamaw Branch Library. Please note that any alteration to your building or land requires a building permit from Georgetown County Building Department at 120 Broad Street in Georgetown.

If you believe a storm or flood is coming and/or have received an Emergency Evacuation notice, you should shut off any propane at the tank and electricity at the outside breaker panel and move unattached household contents upstairs. It is unlikely that you will get much warning, so a detailed checklist prepared in advance would help ensure that you don’t forget anything.

Flood Insurance: If you don’t have flood insurance, talk with your insurance agent. As you are aware, homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover damage from floods. However, because the Town participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you can purchase a separate insurance policy from them through your agent. This insurance is backed by the Federal government and is available to everyone, even for properties that have been flooded.

Some people have purchased flood insurance because it was required by the bank when they got a mortgage or home improvement loan. Usually these policies cover only the building’s structure and not the contents. If you are covered, check out the amount and make sure you have contents coverage.

If you are not covered, don’t wait for the next flood to buy insurance protection because policies include a 30-day waiting period before NFIP coverage takes effect. Contact your insurance agent for more information on rates and coverage. Remember: Even if the last storm or flood missed you or you have done some retrofitting, the next storm or flood could be worse. Flood insurance covers all surface floods.

The main source of flooding in the Town of Pawleys Island is wind-driven surge generated in the Atlantic Ocean by tropical storms and hurricanes. Strong winds associated with tropical storms can also produce extremely high waves that create higher than normal surge. The wave action during a tidal flood can be much more damaging than the higher water level. Not all storms produce an extremely high surge as they pass close to the Town of Pawleys Island. Similarly, storms which produce flooding conditions in one area may not necessarily produce flooding conditions in other parts of the island.

South Carolina experiences both hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricanes are large and violent low pressure systems which originate in the South Atlantic and migrate northward. The late summer and early fall months represent the hurricane season in coastal South Carolina. High wind velocities and torrential rains accompany hurricanes. Surge and precipitation, along with high winds, have produced severe floods and extensive structural damage throughout Georgetown County.

The Town established a Shore Protection Line for the purpose of the prevention of disturbance of any sand dunes and protection of critical habitat areas for endangered wildlife species. Sand dunes designated as critical habitat areas in the local or State Beach Management Plan shall not be altered for any reason except as allowed in the Guidelines for the Protection of Endangered Species and Critical Habitat. All dune building, restoration, and re-vegetation should be done in accordance with the standards established by OCRM and the Town’s Unified Development Ordinance.

The salt marsh is a natural stormwater collection repository, as opposed to the ocean, where stormwater runoff is prohibited by ordinance. Therefore, the salt marsh, along with the salt creek on the west side of the island, is maintained naturally with help from the Corps of Engineers. Salt water wetlands on the island fluctuate with the tide and are conveyed to the salt marsh by the South Carolina Department of Transportation. Moreover, the Town has ordinances to protect these wetlands and to prohibit dumping in the salt marsh. In order to achieve water quality, the Town controls impervious surfaces to significantly limit runoff into the salt marsh.

Moreover, through the Georgetown County Map Server provided by GIS, you can enter your street address or your property tax map number to be connected to a website to obtain the flood zone information. The GIS / Mapping Department website is: or browse to the Georgetown County Website at: and follow the “Property Services” links to the GIS / Mapping Department home page. There you will find the link to the Georgetown CountyMap Server, a site where you can view maps and serial photos of Georgetown County online, using only your web browser.

This website features full service capabilities, allowing users to locate a property by owner’s name, address, or Tax Map Number. Alternatively, users can begin with a map of the entire county and just zoom in to any area they wish. Map layers include street maps, tax maps, and FIRM maps for Flood Zones.

In summary, the GIS project includes a map of the Town’s flood hazard areas and meets the following criteria as outlined below:

– All streets are named, and parcel boundary lines are shown as readily distinguishable from streets.

– The flood-prone areas are identified with the base flood elevation for all AE and VE zones. These zone lines are superimposed on the map that shows all streets and parcel boundaries.

– By zooming on the Georgetown County GIS Map Server (link provided on Town’s homepage), any desired scale can be achieved.

Because the danger of flooding centers on tropical storms and hurricanes, the Flood Threat Recognition System is concurrent with the Emergency Preparedness Divisions plans for hurricane evacuations. When the National Weather Service determines, through its storm prediction center, that there is a probability that the area could get dangerous winds and tides, a hurricane watch is announced and State and local Emergency Preparedness Divisions are activated.

The Director of EPD contacts the Mayors of all the Towns, the County Administrator, and all law enforcement and emergency departments to alert them to the problem. If a voluntary or mandatory evacuation of the area is to be called by the Governor, all local agencies are informed as well as all local media, radio, television, and cable companies. The media begins informing the public.

The Mayor of Pawleys Island is informed as the decisions are made and the Police Department begins evacuation information dissemination on the Island. This is accomplished by the Town’s Police with cars equipped with sirens, blue lights, and public address systems riding all the Town’s streets every two hours informing the public. Both the two operating inns and the one multifamily development are informed by telephone. In the case of mandatory evacuation, all residents not showing signs of evacuation are contacted individually on a door-to-door basis by the Police and strongly urged to leave. If they refuse, a form noting they have been informed and refuse to leave is filled out and signed by the resident including contact information on the “next of kin.”

This Flood Protection Information on property protection and flood insurance is provided for your reference at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a part of our program to maintain acceptance in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS). In CRS, we achieved preferential pricing and availability of Federal flood insurance for all our property owners. Accordingly, we are continuing to work with FEMA to improve the Town’s CRS Rating.

All houses on Pawleys are located in a floodplain as defined by FEMA. As a small narrow barrier island, the Town of Pawleys Island is particularly susceptible to hurricanes and storms. Unfortunately, some of us have been subjected to repeat flooding from storms in ’87 and Hugo in ’89.

There are two “Repetitive Loss” areas on Pawleys Island, defined as areas in which some houses have had multiple flood policy claims. These areas are at the north end and the south end of the Island. The center area escaped serious damages from the storms and hurricanes of the past 20 years, except for the incident which occurred when the pier destroyed in Hugo was carried south along the beach causing destruction of some dwellings.

The north end repetitive losses were both oceanfront and creekside homes and were scattered up the full length of Atlantic Avenue to the northernmost point of the Island. Of the 25 repetitive losses, only five were correctly elevated to or above the proper Base Flood Elevation at the time of filing the second claim.

The south end is said to begin at Springs Avenue and extends to the southernmost point of the Island. The south end repetitive losses were, for the most part, oceanfront homes, except for some damaged in the Birds Nest section. Of the 46 repetitive losses on the south end, only seven were correctly elevated to or above the proper Base Flood Elevation at the time of the second claim.

Therefore, Federal flood insurance is important for most of us as part of a good property protection program. At Town Hall, we intend to continue to work with FEMA and with you, our property owners, to insure the continued availability of Federal flood insurance at a reasonable cost.

Contained in the Town’s UDO, the development regulations provide for permit requirements and design standards for suitability of the land in flood prone areas. Furthermore, the Town’s UDO’s Flood Damage Prevention Regulations requires a development permit prior to the commencement of any development activities.

Therefore, all floodplain development in the Town of Pawleys Island (not just the construction of buildings) needs local permits. All developers are advised to contact the Georgetown County Building Department before clearing and grubbing, grading, bringing in fill material, and any proposed disturbing of any sand dune. The Building Department will, in turn, request the developers to report any illegal floodplain development in the Town.

For zoning questions and permit applications, developers should contact Mrs. Joanne Ochal, Zoning Administrator, 120 Broad Street, Georgetown, S.C. 29440; 843/545-3602; Any person may file a written complaint stating the causes and bases. The complaint will be immediately investigated and action taken as provided by the appropriated Town regulation. Penalties for violation are discussed in the Town’s Unified Development Ordinance.

Contained in the Town’s UDO are definitions which thoroughly cover this subject and cross-reference the zoning regulations with the flood damage prevention regulations. These regulations covering the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) require that, if the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvements to a building equals or exceeds 50% of the structure’s market value, then the structure must meet the same construction requirements as a new building. Substantially damaged buildings must also be brought up to the same standards; for example, a residence damaged so that the cost of repairs equals or exceeds 50% of the structure’s value before it was damaged must be elevated above the design flood elevation and meet the current setback requirements.

Any appeal made after a decision by the Georgetown County Building Department must be filed by a written petition with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, stating why the decision is contrary to law, as outlined in the Flood Damage Prevention Regulations of the Town’s Unified Development Ordinance.

The Town of Pawleys Island storm drainage system is described in detail in a written document, Description of the Town of Pawleys Island Drainage System (May 2008). In addition, the drainage system is identified on a large Storm Drains Map. Both of these documents are located at the Town Hall.

The overall drainage system is identified by OUTFALLS to the creek. There are 17 outfalls with 33 drains on the north end of the island (north of the North Causeway), 23 outfalls with 36 drains on the south end of the island (south of the South Causeway), and 10 outfall with 18 drains in the middle of the island, between the causeways. The Town uses a numerical system that corresponds to the general region of the island (N for north, M for middle or S for south) and the adjacent property address to facilitate easy location. Drains that go under roadways are marked by a steel signpost with blue paint at the top.

Inspections: The storm drainage system is inspected by the CRS Coordinator on an annual basis in late May or early June, before the beginning of hurricane season. At this time, if there are any problem areas, the Mayor and the Public Works staff will also inspect the drains, assisted by a committee of P.I. residents. In addition, throughout the year, following any major storms, or in response to a citizen’s complaint, the CRS Coordinator and Public Works staff will inspect the drainage system or the problem area.

Debris Removal: Following every inspection, citizen complaint, and whenever a problem is reported, the Town’s Public Works staff will follow up to clear out debris (garbage, small limbs, etc.) or make any minor repairs, for example, removing grass that has grown over collection boxes (CB). The Town contacts the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) if their assistance is required for any major drain repairs and to flush out the outfalls when sediment accumulates. Unless there is an emergency or a situation that warrants immediate attention, any major repairs to the drainage system are scheduled for the winter months when there are fewer residents and visitors and less traffic.

No Dumping Regulations: The Town of Pawleys Island prohibits dumping of any kind into the Island’s storm drainage system. Language in the Town’s Unified Zoning Ordinance prohibits the dumping of solid waste refuse directly into the island’s storm drainage system, into any drainage channel or open lot area tht could lead into the drainage system, or wnywhere within the Town limits. This ordinance mandates that property owners keep property free of litter, and “materials that already are, or become, trapped as such locations as fences and wall bases, grassy and planted areas, borders, embankments, drainage channels and ditches and other lodging points.” Violations of this Ordinance provision are punishable as a misdemeanor with fines up to $500 and/or imprisonment of not more than 30 days. Violations of these dumping regulations should be reported to the Town’s Police Department.

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