NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - It is said those in coastal areas learn to live with the water, but sometimes that relationship becomes too much. That's why many have flood insurance, to guard against the wrath of nature's strongest force.
Like the flood waters during an epic storm, the cost of flood insurance rising combined with the reform designed to fix a system leaking billions of dollars, may put many underwater.
"You can see your premium go up as high as your monthly mortgage payment," warned Willo Kelly from the Outer Banks Association of Realtors. She's talking about new flood insurance rules passed by Congress.
The Biggert-Waters Act could expand flood zones when new FEMA maps come out next year.
"That is going to hit hardest the person living in their home with their family, living and working in the neighborhood, and they are going to see tremendous increases if there is a change in zone or base flood elevation," Kelly said.
Congress passed the law last year in response to record storms starting with Hurricane Katrina, which put the National Flood Insurance Program underwater by $18 billion. FEMA says Biggert Waters will make the program "financially stable, and ensure that flood insurance rates more accurately reflect the real risk of flooding."
Realtor Richard Hess said the new law pushed a client's annual flood insurance from $600 to $15,000, "and obviously that killed the deal, and the house had to drop in price very low, for a cash buyer who was not even going to carry flood insurance [because] he knows there was very little risk of flood."
As new Flood Insurance Rate Maps are emerging in Louisiana, some of the quotes were staggering. A recent presentation from Greater New Orleans Regional Economic Development shows a three-bedroom home went from an annual premium of $388 to $23,946.
Annual insurance rates on a motel jumped from $1,522 a year to $103,000.
Elaine Gregory has lived in a modest home in the Avalon neighborhood in Kill Devil Hills since 1960 and has endured three floods during that time.
"If those rates come along, we won't be renewing," she said.
Norfolk is surrounded by water, and city planner Lenny Newcomb sees another challenge.
"The water level rising is essentially increasing the areas at risk," Newcomb said. "It's going to end up bearing more responsibility on the property owner over time. It has to."
One of those areas is the historic Ghent neighborhood on Yarmouth Street near the Hauge. Cannon Moss moved there six years ago and has weathered seven floods. Now he's raising his standard of living, literally. A grant from FEMA is helping him raise his house seven feet.
"And they've actually said with this mitigation program, if you choose not to do it, then your flood insurance can actually go up," Moss said.
Moss said he was quoted an annual premium of about $10,000.
FEMA said the coming rate hikes will affect 20 percent of flood insurance policies that receive subsidies, with rate increases coming in annual increments of 25 percent.
Kelly says it may be too much for some.
"Lowering property values, people being forced into foreclosure, not being able to sell your home, being landlocked into your home -- those are some of the concerns we have," Kelly said.
A bill introduced to Congress in May could delay the Bigger Waters act by three years. For more information about the bill, click here.
To find out if you're in a flood zone, click here.
Norfolk Police are investigating the cause of death for male found unconscious on the beach.
The art of making jewelry is helping some Norfolk students learn independence and job skills.
The suicide of a 16-year-old Gloucester girl has led a community to speak up about bullying.