Torrential downpours over the past week have caused major flooding across the South from eastern Texas to parts of south Mississippi. On Sunday, May 12, three to four inches of rain fell across New Orleans, stranding cars and inundating streets.
Approximately 11,500 New Orleans residents were without power during the height of the storm. The worst of the storm moved into the Florida Panhandle by Sunday afternoon. Both Louisiana and Mississippi have declared states of emergency.
Storm systems have been raining down across the Gulf Coast for the last few days, but New Orleans residents say flooding, which has cost the U.S. $40 billion since 2010, is becoming a regular occurrence.
“I’m a 6th-generational New Orleanean,” said Heather Wright, 48, in an interview with USA Today. “It used to be that every few years, we’d get these big floods in May. Now it’s constant.”
“Any time there’s major rain, we stress,” said Wright. “It’s becoming an issue where people are literally afraid when thunderstorms come — we don’t know if the streets are going to become impassable, or if the water is going to enter our homes or our businesses.”
Wright says more New Orleaneans are talking about moving farther outside the city or leaving the city entirely. But flood damage to local houses may make moving difficult.
The average home inspection requires up to 500 data points. And although certain floors like engineered bamboo floors can be refinished up to two times, it can be difficult to repair flood-damaged flooring without completely replacing it.
City officials urged residents to park on high ground and not to attempt to drive through flooded areas. Officials also warned residents about downed power lines and standing water.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city received over 5 inches of rain in seven hours with heavy rainfall bringing 2 inches of rain per hour. After the storm, the city offered free vehicle towing.
Unfortunately, despite city officials’ warnings, residents in the city may still suffer damage to their financial health. According to a recent report from the Urban Institute, natural disasters can not only have a major impact on people’s properties but also their credit scores and risk of foreclosure and bankruptcy.
Researchers at the Urban Institute say that medium-sized disasters like the flooding currently impacting the South can have the most negative consequences. This is because medium-sized disasters don’t often attract the same degree of federal assistance as other large disasters. Natural disasters on a larger scale often receive government assistance in the form of financial aid as well as the deployment of rescue equipment such as some of the thousands of military helicopters in use. Medium-sized disasters don’t typically receive these resources but can still wreak havoc in affected areas, leaving consumers with a smaller safety net.
To make matters worse, many homeowners often forego flood insurance, which isn’t considered a part of standard homeowner’s insurance policies but is a separate policy on its own. Actuarial firm Milliman estimated that fewer than 10% of households had flood insurance when Hurricane Florence caused widespread flooding in North Carolina in 2018.
Experts suggest that homeowners document any possible damage to their property by taking video or photos of the damage. This can help homeowners when they make an insurance claim.
It’s also recommended that residents hold on receipts from purchases they make in the following weeks to replace belongings. Insurance may be able to reimburse homeowners for these belongings.