Big Island

When the Water Flows! | Big Island Flood Zones

When Gilligan and gang landed the SS Minnow on that tropical island, flooding may not have been their chief concern, even though they were certainly prime candidates for dangerous and violent forms of flooding found in coastal zones.

In the Zone

Finding insurance in the so-called “V” or “Velocity” zones may be a bit complicated and sometimes costly, especially when there are obstructions or rooms on the lower level. Most would be surprised to learn that local REALTORS® don’t deal with flood zones that often. Truth is, neither do many insurance agents.

Determining the flood zone is pretty simple. Here on the Big Island, an online search with the address or Tax Map Key (TMK) number is all it takes. In Gillian’s case, if the Powells, Ginger, the Skipper, and friends decide to make their stay more permanent, there are a couple of things that they should consider.

Check the Elevation Certificate

The last round of changes made it critical that a REALTOR® request a “K2” survey showing all improvements on the property along with the elevation certificate in their purchase contract. Elevation certificates indicate the base flood elevation and the height at which the bottom floor of the improvement (the house) is located.

In the past, this was really the only factor an insurance company would consider when pricing a policy. New guidelines add other criteria such as percentage of the time the area floods, cost to rebuild, distance from the water source, and a few others. These apply to every property in any flood zone.

Alphabet Soup of Flooding

Inland properties affected by flood zones have designations beginning with the letter “A”. Water sources in flood zones “A” originate from ponds, streams, or other run-off. If the “V” and “A” designations are followed by another letter, additional analysis has been done to determine flood source and frequency.

Property in “B”, “C”, or “X” zones are generally not considered at risk for flooding and do not require flood insurance. Although I have never seen property designated “B” or “C” on the Big Island, there are certainly properties in zone “X.” As misleading as it seems, an “X” designation is not considered a flood zone.

Until recently, most of Puna (except coastal areas) was in zone “X.” Anyone living off Pohaku Drive near 39th, on parts of 40th, and many parts of Hawaiian Acres can attest that flooding certainly occurs. We’ve certainly seen damage occur to homes completely out of the flood zone. Down-slope property owners near new subdivisions should be aware that chances of surface run-off and flooding change with development.

Am I Covered?

Homeowner’s policies rarely cover general water damage. If your home is low-lying or near an active stream, investing in a flood policy is prudent. Even though the crew of the SS Minnow may not need to worry about a dishwasher, washing machines, or hot water heaters overflowing, these things could be an issue for a normal homeowner’s policy. Don’t assume you are covered.

Here on the Big Island, we are acutely aware that water always goes where it wants to go. Remember, flood policies are not effective during the first 30 days. Ask your real estate “Professor” what issues might pertain to your purchase.

After all, as Gilligan and friends discovered, being stranded on a desert isle can be a wonderful thing as long as you plan for all emergencies!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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January 6, 2022

Just wanted to say Thank you for your service to our wonderful Country.
Not looking anymore for homes. Just wanted you to know of my appreciation for your efforts and dedication to the USA.

Denise Nakanishi, R(B)

January 9, 2022

> Mahalo for your kind words Wendy.

Hope you have a safe and happy new year!

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