No Insurance Leaves Iowans Adrift After Floods of 2016

Sadly, Iowa’s great floods of 2016 and Hurricane Matthew’s remorselessly 120 mph wind wrath have left too many American families up a creek of financial disaster without a paddle.

Families that chose to battle the United States’ two major natural disasters of fall 2016 without flood insurance are now facing a two-front storm: 1) The immense physical damage inflicted on their home and personal possessions; 2) The full throttle financial migraine of repair and replacement.

The rains and storms have left far too many Americans as cautionary tales of the essential need to carry flood insurance if you live in or near a flood plain.

In Pooler, Ga., waist-deep floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew invaded the streets of Lori Galemore’s hometown before blasting into her home, engulfing her carpets and furniture. Thankfully, firefighters rescued Lori and her three sons. Her home, and most of its contents, were lost.

Alas, the Galemores weathered Matthew without flood insurance, thinking they were safe because they lived outside a designated flood zone, 35 miles in from the evacuated Georgia coast.

“Everybody said, ‘You’re not in a flood plain. You don’t need flood insurance,” Lori Galemore told the Associated Press.

On the Matanzas River in Crescent Beach, Fla., Walter Coker’s fish camp was destroyed as a four-feet surge of water inundated and leveled his furniture warehouse, crippling his business.

Again, Coker has nothing but his own personal savings to lean on as he attempts to begin again.

“(Flood insurance) is one of those things you don’t buy on something you don’t think will happen,” Coker told the AP.

Lori and Walter’s are heartbreaking story, one of thousands playing out across the country this month. Insurance officials report the risk of flooding appears on the rise.

“We seem to be having more and more flooding events, be it climate change or other things,” Cynthia DiVincenti, a vice president of Aon National Flood Services, said.

In Iowa, the news is particularly distressing. Standard homeowner insurance policies cover wind damage, including torn-off roofs and fallen trees, but not flood damage. The fallout for homes residing in or near flood zones is severe.

“A flood can strike just about anytime and anywhere,” Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss said. “Once a flood happens, or in the days before it does, it’s too late to prevent financial devastation (most flood insurance policies don’t take effect until 30 days after signing).”

Standard homeowner insurance policies cover wind damage, including torn-off roofs and fallen trees, but not flood damage. The fallout for homes residing in or near flood zones is severe. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports flood claims have averaged more than $1.9 billion annually since 2006.

Homeowners’ most common hesitancy to purchase flood insurance is naturally a fear of high costs.

“Flood insurance is expensive,” Galemore said. “Who wants to pay for that?”

Floodsmart.gov estimates flood insurance nationally averages $700 per year, and $400 to $600 in low to moderate flood risk areas. But flood insurance’s annual premiums are priceless protection when disaster strikes, which is becoming a common occurrence across the nation. Homeowners lacking flood insurance may qualify for federal grants for shelter and food, but those are typically low sums. Homeowners can also register for low-interest disaster loans, but those must be repaid.

As homeowners in Iowa cities and communities like Cedar Rapids, Decorah, Manchester, Clarksville, Vinton and Greene discovered the hard way in September, just a few inches of floodwater can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Flood insurance is the best way to protect yourself from devastating financial loss.

Floodsmart.gov offers homeowners in-depth information on what their flood insurance cost would be and links to locating local flood insurance agents.

Whatever you do, don’t try to weather Iowa’s next floods alone. For foresight is the key to financial flood survival.

“If you are going to be protected, you have to plan ahead,” Voss said.

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