MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In 2013, the National Weather Service issued 332 flash flood and flood watches/warnings for the state. The state also reported one tropical storm in the Gulf Coast. More severe weather came this spring with tornadoes and more than two feet of rain.
Between the Gulf Coast’s tropical storms and the numerous rivers and streams, the potential for flooding in Alabama is ever present, according to the National Weather Service Office in Birmingham.
“Flooding due to heavy rains is a serious threat to all residents of our state,” said Alabama Emergency Management Director Art Faulkner. “Many of the homes and businesses flooded in the recent historic rain events were not in a flood zone. For the best protection, a flood policy available through the National Flood Insurance Program is a wise investment. Flood insurance will not keep rising water out of your home or business, but it will protect the investment you have in them.”
Flood insurance is important regardless of your flood zone. In fact, people outside high-risk areas file more than 25 percent of flood claims nationwide. And according to the flood insurance program, from 2003 to 2012, the agency averaged $4 billion in claims per year nationwide.
In Alabama, only 57,000 of the estimated 1.8 million households have flood insurance. Yet, the state is highly susceptible to the ravages of flooding, according to FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer in charge of Alabama’s disaster recovery Joe M. Girot.
“Here are two important points people need to understand,” he said. “First, homeowner insurance policies do not cover flooding. Second, flood insurance policyholders can file a claim even if a storm doesn’t trigger a federal disaster declaration.
“Flood insurance is available to homeowners, business owners and renters in communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program and enforce their local flood damage prevention ordinances,” Girot said.
Homeowners in a floodplain (or Special Flood Hazard Area) must buy flood insurance if they have a mortgage from a federally regulated lender. An interactive guide to determine your flood risk is available online at FloodSmart.gov. The site also provides information on the NFIP.
Flood insurance, with an average premium running about $600 per year, can save homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs. Just three inches of floodwater in a home will require replacing drywall, baseboards, carpets, furniture and other necessary repairs that can cost an estimated $7,800, according to the National Flood Insurance Program.
The deeper the floodwater, the more it will cost – 18 inches of water means repairs to the electrical system and the heating and cooling system. It also means replacement of doors, appliances and cabinetry, adding another $26,000 to the bill.
Homeowners can insure their homes for up to $250,000 and contents for up to $100,000. Renters can cover their belongings for up to $100,000. Nonresidential property owners can insure a building and its contents for up to $500,000 each.
There is normally a 30-day waiting period when purchasing a new policy. Flood insurance is sold through private companies and agents and is backed by the federal government.