How to handle flood damage after a hurricane if you're uninsured
Did you know that just an inch of floodwater inside of a home can cost more than $20,000 in damage? Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States and can occur anywhere in the country.
Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States and cause millions of dollars in damage annually, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Despite flood disaster losses becoming more likely in coastal areas as development increases, many people in such high-risk areas still don’t have flood insurance to protect their properties.
However, more than 20 percent of flood claims actually come from properties that lie outside of high-risk flood zones, according to FEMA.
With the recent devastation of Harvey and Irma in 2017 came the revelation that people in Florida and Texas, particularly Houston, aren’t adequately covered against flood damage.
According to a 2016 poll from the Insurance Information Institute, 12 percent of American homeowners had a primary flood insurance policy, which was a slight drop from 14 percent in 2015.
“What we tend to see is ‘out of sight, out of mind',” said Lisa Lindsay, executive director with the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA).
“If we don’t have active hurricane flooding, even though there are a lot of flood events that occur with regularity, people don’t tend to think about purchasing insurance or doing something to help mitigate the chances of loss,” Lindsay said.
Florida has undergone a steep decline in flood insurance policies since 2012, even in areas more likely to flood due to potentially devastating storm surge, according to the Associated Press.
Though Florida property owners still make up the bulk of federal flood insurance policies in the United States, the AP found that the state’s overall flood insurance rate for homes in flood-prone areas is at only 41 percent.
A study also found that many Houston residents faced a similar situation after Harvey inundated the growing city with heavy rainfall in August.
Homes in the Houston area were found to have 9 percent less flood insurance coverage than compared to five years ago, according to the AP.
“In 2016, they re-drew all the flood maps for Houston,” said Sam Craven, owner of Houston-based Senna House Buyers.
“You pretty much have to go in and check when the maps are re-drawn to see if you wind up in a flood zone,” he said.
Part of the decline might be attributed to complacency after Tropical Storm Allison drenched Houston 16 years ago. Experts believe residents may have let their guards down after such a lengthy time period between flooding disasters.
A rise in cost, which is the most common reason for forgoing flood insurance, has also played a significant role.
“Flood insurance costs vary, starting around $35 per month and range up to $100 per month,” said Dan Green, founder of financial education website Growella.
“In a typical-sized home, one inch of floodwater can cause $20,000 of damage,” said Green. “Harvey brought 50 inches.”
Extensive flood damage can lead to financial ruin for the uninsured.
“Homeowners in Houston who lack flood insurance [will] face the high costs of home repair, and some may enter bankruptcy,” Green said.
Next steps after flood damage
It’s estimated that only 40 percent of the approximately $30 billion in damage inflicted by Harvey will be covered by insurance. Federal assistance may an option for those who lack coverage.
People can apply for disaster assistance if the president declares their state to be a major disaster area. Those in need of assistance can check online to see if their area has been declared for receiving individual assistance.
Federal help is only available for a person’s primary place of residence, not secondary homes.
“If you don’t have insurance and you’re an individual in the home you live in, you need to jump online with FEMA and apply for support,” Craven said.
Help from FEMA may include supplies, shelter and loans, Craven said.
“Even if you don’t think you qualify for a lot of the different things that are on the FEMA website, apply for everything,” he said.
FEMA can offer a maximum of $33,000 in grant money for household repairs. Grants through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program can cover things like temporary housing, repairs, replacing belongings and disaster-related expenses, including medical help and child care.
Up to $200,000 in loans are available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Low-cost SBA loans can help with repairing or replacing a flood-damaged home, refinancing a mortgage if the uninsured can’t get credit elsewhere and replacing damaged belongings for both renters and homeowners.
Business ownership isn’t necessary to apply for SBA loans; however, those funds will need to be paid back eventually.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
Tropical Storm Zeta forms in Caribbean
After a lull in activity, forecasters are putting parts of the Caribbean and Southeast US back on alert for tropical activity.
Molave to impact the Philippines through the weekend
After Saudel swept across the Philippines earlier this week, a second named tropical storm will bring impacts over the weekend.
Record-setting cold leaves blanket of snow over north-central US
Temperatures tumbled to new record lows across the region on Saturday, and snowy, icy conditions remain on the horizon for the near future as a cold front sweeps across the north-central United States.
Satisfying sweater weather dishes to make this weekend
Nothing evokes the spirit of fall quite like the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house. Here are some meal ideas to invoke the flavors of the season.
Dog coats to keep your pup protected and warm this winter
Your dog is part of the family too, so make sure he or she has the right apparel for colder weather.
Making wind vanes at AccuWeather School
Creating a wind vane at home is simple with these instructions from AccuWeather School. Plus, find out whether a wind vane tells you the direction the wind is blowing – away from or toward you.