Hurricane Ian floods leave damage, insurance issues behind

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Hurricane Ian floods leave damage, insurance issues behind

Jordan Cromer clears water from his home in North Port, Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) – Many people associate hurricanes with wind damage – downed power lines, torn roofs, trees toppled in homes or windows shattered by flying objects, and 150-degree winds. mph from Hurricane Ian certainly caused extensive damage.

But hurricanes can also bring massive storm surge, as Ian did in places like Naples or Fort Myers Beach.

Heavy rains from hurricanes can also cause widespread flooding away from the beach. Ian dumped rain for hours as it streaked across the state, sending waterways spilling onto their shores and into homes and businesses far inland from where Ian made landfall. People were using kayaks to evacuate their flooded homes, and floodwaters in some areas still haven’t subsided a week after making landfall.

But flooding is not covered by a home insurance policy.

It must be purchased separately, usually from the federal government. Although most people have the option of purchasing flood insurance, it is only required for government-backed mortgages located in areas that the Federal Emergency Management Agency deems most at risk. risk. Many banks also require it in high-risk areas. But some homeowners who pay off their mortgage give up their flood insurance once it’s no longer needed. Or if they buy a house or mobile home with cash, they may not opt ​​for it at all. And floods can and do happen outside of high-risk areas where flood insurance is required.

It has long been feared that not enough people have flood insurance, especially at a time when climate change is making hurricanes even stronger and storms in general wetter, slower and more likely to swell. rapidly intensify. According to the Insurance Information Institute, only about 4% of homeowners nationwide have flood insurance, although 90% of disasters in the United States involve flooding. In Florida, that number is only about 18%.

“We’ve experienced catastrophic flooding across the United States this year, including in Kentucky and Missouri, where virtually no one had flood insurance,” said the Institute’s Mark Friedlander.

Hurricane Ian caused extensive flooding in areas outside of high-risk areas. According to consulting firm Milliman, about 18.5% of homes in counties under evacuation orders had federally-issued flood insurance. In areas under evacuation orders outside of high-risk areas, 9.4% of households had a policy.

Last year, FEMA updated its flood insurance pricing system to more accurately reflect risk called Risk Rating 2.0. The old system took into account the elevation of a house and whether it was in a high-risk flood zone. The 2.0 risk rating looks at the risk of an individual property being flooded, taking into account factors such as its distance from the water. The new tariff system increases tariffs for around three-quarters of policyholders and offers price reductions for the first time.

FEMA has long said the new ratings will attract new policyholders. However, a FEMA report to the Treasury Secretary and a handful of congressional leaders last year said far fewer people would buy flood insurance as prices rose. Since the new rating system took effect in Florida, the number of fonts in the state has dropped by about 50,000 since August 2021.

After a federally declared disaster, homeowners with flood insurance are likely to receive more money, faster, to recover and rebuild than uninsured people.

“Unless you have flood insurance, the federal government won’t give you enough help to rebuild your home,” said Rob Moore, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water and climate team.

In the North Port area that was being cleaned up by Ian, Ron Audette was unsure if he would get flood insurance in the future due to the cost. The retired US Navy sailor was cleaning his one-story house on a corner lot after floodwaters warped the laminate floor, swelled the wooden furniture and left the leather reclining sofa where he watched the Patriots games in a muddy, watery mess.

“I don’t think we could live here if we had to buy flood insurance,” he said.

But down the street, his neighbor Barrett definitely intended to get it.

“Get flood insurance even if it’s not necessary,” she advised. “Because we definitely will now.”

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