Lessons From The 2017 Hurricane Season: Do You Have Flood Insurance?

Written by Amine

It took less than a month for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season to become one of the worst in recorded history.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas on August 25 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 mph. The storm raised water and tides more than 12 feet above ground level in some places. Harvey shattered rainfall records as it dragged on for days, with some areas receiving more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.

Hurricane Irma hit Florida on September 10 as a Category 4 storm. According to researchers, Irma is one of the most powerful storms to hit the Atlantic Basin in more than a decade. Irma had sustained winds of 185 mph for 37 hours, which is the longest sustained cyclone anywhere in the world at that level of intensity.

On September 20, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph. The entire island suffered catastrophic damage. In some places the damage was absolute.

As an independent insurance agent living and working in South Florida for over 30 years, preparing for and recovering from storms is nothing new. But, this year was different. As Hurricane Irma made its way toward the southeast coast of the United States, we received an unprecedented number of calls about flood insurance. Why?

Everyone saw the catastrophic flooding in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey just a few weeks earlier. The damage was devastating. So was the news that nearly 80% of homeowners in the counties most directly affected by the floods did not have flood insurance.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), floods are the most common and costliest natural disaster. FEMA’s flood hazard mapping program is used to identify flood hazards, assess flood risks and determine flood insurance requirements.

Unfortunately, too many homeowners and businesses refuse to carry flood insurance simply because they are not located in a high-risk flood zone. Hurricane Harvey taught us that when it comes to flooding, mother nature pays no attention to FEMA flood zone maps. Neither should you.

Flood zones are always being re-mapped, but it is a long process that can take years. Updated maps quickly become outdated. In addition, the process of identifying a property that is prone to flooding is not a perfect science. For example, flood zone determinations fail to adequately consider:

  • localized drainage issues;

  • long term erosion;

  • continuous development;

  • topographic variances on individual properties; or

  • the failure of flood control systems.

This is why everyone should seriously consider flood insurance, regardless of whether they are in a high-risk flood zone. The premiums are relatively affordable, particularly when you consider the risks assumed by a flood insurance policy, such as:

  • overflow of inland or tidal waters;

  • collapse of land along a body of water by waves or currents; and

  • rapid accumulation of surface waters from any source, including blocked storm drains and broken underground water pipes.

Uninsured flood damage can destroy any home or business. In just a few weeks, we’ve seen the landfall of not one, not two, but three hurricanes that rank among the most powerful storms in recorded history. That’s why those who rely on flood zone maps to justify their decision not to buy flood insurance should seriously reconsider.

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