Hurricane Harvey Lesson: Don’t Fight Floods Without Insurance

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Arguably, the greatest lesson Hurricane Harvey and the monstrous Category 5 Hurricane Irma have taught American homeowners is don’t chance living in a flood plain without flood insurance.

The powerhouse combined force of two of the strongest hurricanes on record have left tens of thousands of Americans homeless, ruined up two one million cars, and wrecked devastating property and financial destruction in both Texas and Florida.

Just one in five homes in the greater Houston area are covered by flood insurance, potentially leaving uninsured families near broke, in heavy debt, or flat-out bankrupt. Most standard homeowner policies do not cover flooding.

“That’s really the unfolding disaster” of Harvey, Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told USA Today.

As many uninsured Iowans learned firsthand from last summer’s heavy statewide flooding, rolling the flood dice without insurance when living in a flood plain is a costly proposition.

In the Lone Star State today, many families are moving on from Hurricane Harvey’s estimated $40 billion property damage wrath with no financial backing.

“Every year, I debate whether or not I want to pay ($500) for it (insurance) or not,” Michael Granberry, whose suburban Texas home took on two feet of water, told USAT. “But them I thought to get peace of mind, I’d better get flood insurance. We do it every year now. But sometimes I thought I was wasting money.

“This time it paid off.”

Tony Graham, whose basement took on 18 inches of the nearly 52 inches of rain Harvey deluged upon the Houston area, wasn’t as lucky.

“We didn’t have flood insurance, because where we live, we didn’t expect we’d need it,” Graham said.

The National Flood Insurance Program, which notes that annual flood insurance premiums run on average between $450-$500, is hoping Americans learn the costly lesson of Harvey and Irma and don’t gamble their homes on the seemingly low risk of flooding. After all, 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk flood plains. The NFIP is hoping to double the number of Americans who have flood insurance.

One troubling statistic of how lightly American homeowners are taking the risk of flooding by and large: The number of U.S. Home flood policies in force today has fallen in 43 of the 50 states since 2012, a decrease of about nine percent. Today, just under five million American homes are covered by flood insurance, according to The Associated Press.

While a super storm like Harvey, Irma or Sandy (which ravaged the East Coast in 2012) may seem extremely unlikely in a hurricane-safe zone like the American Midwest, Iowans have experienced deluge rain storms in recent years, including the historic flood of 2008 and last year, when the Cedar, Turkey and Upper Iowa Rivers all exploded over their banks after several days of heavy rains. If a super storm ever did hit a major Iowa city like Des Moines, the fallout could leave the city as a modern day Atlantis, sinking under nine feet of water, according to Iowa Flood Center director Witold Krajewski.

The damage, Krajewski said, “would be worse” than Hurricane Harvey.

Playing the game of chance while living in a flood plain without insurance is simply dangerous, foolish poker. For floods, as FEMA notes, are America’s most common and costliest natural disaster.

For more information on the National Flood Insurance Program, visit https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

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