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Flood Insurance: Which States Are Most at Risk?


You can have 364 sunny days, but it only takes one day of (catastrophic) rain to ruin your life.

Take a jaunt down to South Carolina near Myrtle Beach: There’s a reason most of the homes are built on stilts, because before the stilts, a lot of those houses masqueraded as boats after a hurricane.

And chew on this, from South Carolina Flood Hazard Mitigation’s “A Plan for South Carolina,” prepared for the Department of Natural Resources Land, Water and Conservation Division Flood Mitigation Office:

“…Floods affect everyone, even those not directly damaged, because of the ripple effect on the community and the economy. Floods can kill people. They rob survivors of their property, possessions and time. They pose health hazards from polluted water, mildew and fatigue. They also generate stress on people, and cause mental health strains from property damage and the loss of irreplaceable family treasures. Property damage can be measured in dollars; the losses to people of time, energy and emotional wellbeing cannot.”

Like preventative healthcare, flood insurance is available and necessary for those who live in flood-prone states. Sure, you could wing it, but anyone who has a weather channel knows that not being prepared for the elements is its own type of Russian roulette.

Are You in the Top Ten Risk Pool for Flooding?

Stilt-houses notwithstanding, South Carolina is #7 on the USNews.com’s top ten “states most at risk of flooding.” It was 1989’s Hurricane Hugo that blew into Charleston, soaking the gentile town in a state where 60,000 people inhabit low-lying areas. Over in hurricane-prone North Carolina, 58,000 people would be affected – and that’s why NC is at #8.

All the peach trees in Georgia can’t make the state charming enough to look good when the weather goes haywire. At #10 is Georgia, where 28,000 neighbors in low-lying areas are at risk for future flooding.

Virginia holds the #6 place, particularly low-lying Norfolk, which boasts 75,000 inhabitants. Somebody should alert the Kennedies over in Massachusetts; there, flood risk puts the state at #9; thirty-two square miles populated by 52,400 people is no joke. The Kennedy Curse could become the Massachusetts curse should a nasty flood topple the compound and everything around it.

Speaking of New England, in Rhode Island people with smart phones received two Flash Flood warnings before 2 p.m. on the day this article was written; although Rhode Island didn’t make the top ten for flooding, in recent years precious art work and other damages were incurred when flooding surprised the country’s smallest state.

And for those of you who don’t like Snooki from the popular show Jersey Shore, a bit of good news: 154,000 New Jersians are at risk of flood damage! But seriously, do we even think of New Jersey when we think of natural disaster?

Refined Tech May Put You on the Flood Map All of a Sudden

Flooding not only ruins homes, but it damages infrastructure, and this can be devastating for towns and cities.

In the case of a flood, hindsight is 20/20 and foresight is even better. If flood insurance gives you peace of mind and saves you from losing everything worked for should a flood destroy your worldly possessions, then buy it.

But first, determine your risk. To see if your area is in a flood danger zone (and for flood-related tools), check out FEMA’s flood mapping system.

Flood map revisions due to higher-end technology may result in property reclassification for some home-owners. An article in the Poughkeepsie Journal says every U.S. flood insurance policy up to $250,000 is underwritten by FEMA. These policies can cost in the vicinity of $2-3,000 a year.

With new and more accurate technology, land surveyors are being sent out to measure elevations to bring these statistics up to date. According to the Journal, under new federal flood maps, over 1,100 more Dutchess County properties are in a high-risk category than were before and residents could be required to purchase flood insurance. In Dutchess County, high-risk flood zones increased by 1,147 (from 4, 127 to 5,274). So, if you’re in New York, even if you didn’t make the top ten, you should check out flood insurance.

Complicating matters, mortgage lenders can require you to buy flood insurance regardless if you come under the flood zone. So do your research, and be prepared to buy flood insurance.

Some helpful links:
FEMA (The National Flood Insurance Program)
FEMA (Flood Insurance Requirements for Recipients of Federal Disaster Assistance)
FEMA (Flood Mitigation Assistance Program)
FloodSmart.gov (official site of the NFIP)

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