As Weather Warms, Property Owners Urged to Buy Flood Insurance

March 12, 2010

Having flood insurance will be increasingly important this year as spring rain combines in many parts of the U.S. with the melting of record snowfall, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

“Many states on the Atlantic seaboard were hit with record amounts of snowfall only a few weeks ago, creating a situation where already overflowing bodies of water are placed under additional pressure,” said Michael Barry, vice president of Media Relations at the I.I.I. “Homeowners and renters who reside near small streams and creeks should already have flood insurance but, those who don’t ought to secure a flood policy because this will continue to be an issue into the spring season.”

Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. The optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy includes coverage for flood damage.

Flood coverage for homeowners and renters, however, is available in the form of a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers. There is typically a 30-day waiting period — from date of purchase — before a new NFIP policy goes into effect. Consumers can get more information on the NFIP at

Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are expected to see significant rainfall on Friday, March 12, with the storm moving into New Jersey, New York and Connecticut on Saturday, March 13, and then Massachusetts, New Hampshire and perhaps Maine on Sunday, March 14, according to a number of forecasters.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) specifically cited Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey yesterday as three of the four states nationwide that received precipitation at levels “much above normal” for the winter season (December 2009-February 2010). South Dakota was the fourth state NOAA mentioned. Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, particularly the areas of those states along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, are also seen as vulnerable to flooding over the next 90 days, according to a recent National Weather Service report.

“When it comes to floods and the damage they can do, many people are complacent. Fortunately, flood insurance is easy to get, whether you’re a homeowner or a renter,” Barry noted.

A 2008 I.I.I. poll found that only 17 percent of Americans have a flood insurance policy, with the take-up rate higher (20 percent) in the Northeast than in other parts of the U.S.

The NFIP makes federally backed flood insurance available to communities that agree to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. However, it is worth noting that many floods also occur in areas that are not designated flood plains.

The NFIP provides coverage to its policyholders for up to $250,000 for the structure of a home and $100,000 for personal possessions. Private flood insurance is available for those who need additional insurance protection, known as excess coverage, over and above the basic policy or for people whose communities do not participate in the NFIP.

Some insurers have introduced special policies for high-value properties; these policies may cover homes in non-coastal areas and/or provide enhancements to traditional flood coverage.

For a related video, visit Flood Insurance for Your Home.


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