As we enter the “flooding season,” no home is completely safe from the potential of flooding. Just one inch of water in a home can cost more than $25,000 in damage. but flood insurance can be the difference between recovery and financial devastation. Did you know that floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States? Despite this information, standard homeowners and insurance policies specifically don’t cover flooding. Generally, a homeowners policy will cover water damage if the water comes from above, like rain. What does that mean if you have water damage from the ground up? Flood insurance is what you’ll need if that’s the case. When Hurricane Florence hit in 2018, the storm left widespread flooding and destruction across the Carolinas. This was a reminder to all homeowners of the importance of having separate insurance coverage for flood damage.
Most floods occur due to a heavy amount of rain or snow melting that cannot be absorbed into the ground. While we recognize that these are the typical and primary sources of flooding, the heavy rain and melted snow can result in an overflow of lakes, rivers and small streams which could easily flood nearby areas. There isn’t a minimum or threshold of rainfall or melted snow that must occur to cause flooding. The conditions of flooding are dependent on a variety of circumstances, from lack of vegetation to slow the flooding to a dam failing. The risk of a dam failure resulting in a flood is highly likely. There are more than 84,000 dams in the U.S. More than one-third of the dams in existence are at least 50 years old and 14,000 of these dams are considered a high hazard to life and property if they were to fail — that’s 50 percent!
That risk is not considered or shown on the flood maps of FEMA. Your home may not appear in a flood zone that has been mapped out by FEMA, but if your home is located downstream of a dam — depending on what the dam is holding — it could be at serious risk. As an example, the Hoover Dam in Nevada holds back 10 trillion gallons of water. That’s enough water to flood the entire state of Connecticut to a depth of ten feet! Another potential risk is construction areas and new developments since these can change the natural drainage of water and potentially cause flooding to occur.
The answer to this question truly depends on the risk of a flood occurring in your location and whether the government or mortgage lender requires it. Typically, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines if your residence is at risk of flooding. FEMA updates the nation’s Flood Insurance Risk Maps (FIRMs) and separates them into viewable panels online. You can check FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Map to see what flood zone area your house sits on. FEMA categorizes flood risks into three different levels: highest risk: Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), moderate-to-low risk, and areas with undetermined risk.
There is a chance, especially if you live in a flood-prone area, that you will also need excess flood insurance. Speak to your agent about your home’s risk to determine if surplus coverage is needed to fully protect it.