Margaret Quinn's family lost their home when Hurricane Sandy flooded Silverton.
"We lost our house. We lost everything," she told the Township Council last week as she pleaded for answers on how to rebuild.
The FEMA flood elevations maps released weeks ago are flawed, the township has said, making it difficult for residents who have suffered severe home damage to make plans to rebuild. Following the current map guidelines could wind up costing homeowners money if they rebuild and revisions are made to the finalized maps released in August.
"I cry everyday," Quinn said. "There's nothing there and there's nothing we can do about it."
Fellow Silverton resident Stacy Buono faces the same issue.
"We're all at the point where it's time to move forward and rebuild and we're not sure what we can and can't do," she said.
Toms River Township Engineer Robert Chankalian said in a December letter to FEMA that the maps "appear to be overly conservative."
Chankalian said that Sandy was an "anomaly" and the base flood elevations, which are the standards used to build or significantly renovate homes, should be set lower than the October storm's high-water mark. These maps have a bearing on flood insurance rates.
The proposed map expands "V" zones where homes are more likely to be damaged by waves, while some portions of Ortley Beach that were damaged by waves during Sandy were placed in the lower risk "A" zone region, Chankalian said.
"It is hard to explain why inland lagoon areas are in high elevation and wave 'V' zones, and the barrier island is set at a lesser 'AE' standard. Further, people are already questioning, if my house made it through Sandy, why is the new ABFE more stringent?" Chankalian said in the letter. "I think it goes without saying that we need to be as accurate as possible since the financial impact to the residents in terms of flood insurance costs, resale value and reconstruction/construction costs are significant."
Adopting the maps as-is would be "an immediate hardship to everybody, especially on the mainland," township Business Administrator Paul Shives said at the council's reorganization meeting last week. He said that FEMA had to "rush to judgement" to get the maps out quickly following the storm.
"We don't believe the maps are correct. We believe the 'V' zone may be misplaced," he said.
"Elected officials up and down the coast are incensed by the maps. It's not unique to Toms River or Ocean County, Monmouth County. All of the shore towns are up in arms," Shives said.
The engineer has written to FEMA and requested that the agency revise the maps in the interim, before the August release of the finalized maps, but he has yet to receive a response.
"People want to build their house now," Chankalian said. "They don't want to wait until August. At the same time, this is so conservative that it causes other hardships."
Council members pledged that they will appeal to elected officials for help.
"We need to push FEMA to get answers on this quickly," said Councilman Mo Hill. "I agree that we can't wait until August."
"We'll go to our senators and representatives to get them to put pressure on the federal government to resolve this," Hill said.
Council President George Wittmann said that residents who want to rebuild now, despite the questionable mapping, could proceed while adhering to the most stringent standards.
"The best advice is to go for the 'V' zone," he said.