Published On: Mon, Mar 9th, 2020

Flood Insurance and Climate Change: What You Need to Know

As climate change continues to make weather more unpredictable and dangerous, floods are on the rise. According to NPR, floods are also becoming more expensive and common so having flood insurance is essential. Here is what you need to know about the dangers of floods and the importance of insurance.  

Why Floods Are Increasing

In the NPR interview, science reporter Rebecca Hersher points out that climate change is increasing flooding across the country. This is happening because of rising sea levels, stronger storms and unpredictable weather. Many parts of the United States are experiencing more severe and frequent floods that lead to higher levels of destruction. 

As climate change causes shifts in rainfall patterns, more people are experiencing severe floods. In addition, people’s desire to live close to water is causing more seaside and flood area construction. Agricultural, industrial and urbanization practices are also affecting the ability of the land to absorb water. For instance, the development in floodplains, destruction of beaches and preferences for hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt make it harder for the ground to handle water. 

Flood Insurance Basics 

Flood insurance provides coverage in the event that your property and home are flooded by storms, hurricanes or other events. Many mortgage companies will require you to have flood coverage as a part of your homeowner’s insurance if you are in a flood plain. Most people get their coverage from the National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP) or private companies. 

It is important to keep in mind that most property insurance policies do not automatically cover floods, so you have to purchase additional insurance. The NFIP only covers $100,000 for personal property and $250,000 for reconstruction of a house. 

The National Flood Insurance Policy Is in Trouble 

The National Flood Insurance Policy is in trouble as more homeowners are making claims after severe floods in recent years. Since 1973, the program has paid $69 billion in claims with Louisiana and Texas receiving more than 50 percent of the money, according to Scientific American. Disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey contributed to enormous losses and expenses.

The average claim amounts paid are also on the rise. In 2017, they went over $100,000 per claim, which raises questions about the long-term survival of the program. Compare this to the average claim paid in 1978 that was $5,072. Part of the problem is the rise of properties and people living in the coastal flood zones, and the other part is climate change. This creates pressure on taxpayers to cover the rising costs. 

Hardest Hit Areas 

It is important to note that an analysis in Scientific American of the National Flood Insurance Policy found that five states had the highest number of claims: Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Jersey and New York. In addition, specific counties were hit the hardest: in Texas, it was Galveston, Harris and Jefferson; in Louisiana, it was Jefferson, Orleans, St. Tammany, St. Bernard and East Baton Rouge; in New York, it was Nassau and Suffolk; in New Jersey, it was Ocean County.

The analysis showed that specific parts of the country suffer frequent and severe floods. In addition, an examination of the records showed that the same property locations are filing repeated claims. This means that after a flood happens, people rebuild in the same place and then have another disastrous flood hit them later. 

What You Can Do

If you are on the hunt for a new home or rental, you want to avoid flood plains or consider not buying or renting anything near any type of water. On real estate websites like Zillow, it is easy to narrow down your search and limit properties to areas that are not near water. You can also use real estate apps like Homesnap to look for houses that are not likely to flood. 

The FEMA Flood Map Service Center is another valuable online resource that lets you determine flood risks for specific areas. Simply enter an address or longitude/latitude coordinates to find more information. Although a view of the water may sound more appealing now, it may not be worth it long-term. 

If you already own or rent a property and are not planning to move, you can still learn more about your flood risks. Use the FEMA Flood Map Service Center and pay attention to climate change. You may also want to consider making changes to your property to make it withstand flooding. Some common modifications include raising buildings, adding floodwalls and improving drainage. 

Finally, check your property insurance and make sure you have a separate flood insurance policy if you are in a high-risk area. You do not want to find out that you are missing this vital coverage after a flood destroys or damages your home and property. 

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