As the New York Times reported on September 19, millions of families in the Carolinas are stuck in the same boat: they have a home at risk of being destroyed by flooding, and no flood insurance.
Reporter Mary Williams Walsh points out that their struggle is a familiar one. Victims of Hurricane Maria, Harvey, Irma, and many others have also faced the sometimes insurmountable cost of paying for flood repairs out of pocket.
But why do so few people have flood insurance?
It turns out that after the Great Mississippi Flood in 1927, most general homeowner’s insurance companies dropped flood coverage. The government soon recognized the problem and created a national flood insurance mandate, which requires those living in flood-prone areas to buy federal flood insurance. The problem is, this mandate is rarely enforced. To make matters worse, floodplains change over time, and federal maps are outdated.
The result? According to the New York Times, of the millions of people and homes currently at flood risk from Florence, only 335,000 have flood insurance.
Although about 93% of all water damage is preventable, in some cases, there is little a homeowner can do to prevent destruction. Natural disasters like Florence can leave even the most secure, waterproofed, protected home in shambles.
Water damage is actually one of the most common causes of home insurance claims, but water damage from flooding in particular usually isn’t covered. Unfortunately, hurricanes aren’t the only type of disaster that can cause flooding and water damage. According to The Civil Engineering Research Foundation, the number of backed up sewers is increasing at the alarming rate of 3% per year in the United States. Now imagine dealing with both a hurricane and a backed up sewer system. That’s the unfortunate reality faced by many Americans following Hurricane Florence.
So what can be done?
WFMY News 2 out of Greensboro, North Carolina recently released an article giving general advice about how to repair a home after flood damage.
Predictably, the article points out that if water damage comes from an overhead leak, homeowners’ insurance will cover the cost. However, flooding from below is not covered.
WFMY reported several tips from a local restoration worker, including advice like:
- Act quickly so that water doesn’t settle and create more difficult issues to resolve.
- For lesser damage, use a shop vac and dehumidifiers to remove as much water as possible.
- If mold grows, don’t use bleach. Instead, use specific mold-killing chemicals, like peroxide, vinegar, and baking soda.
- If furniture has been soaked for more than two days, throw it out. Even if it dries completely, bacteria cannot be removed from the inside.
- If water covers half of a room or more, call experts.
- Finally, be patient. Drying out a room can take three to five days.
Without flood insurance, huge numbers of people will be forced to pay for flood damage repair themselves or hope that FEMA provides emergency financial assistance. Though some will likely call in professional help, odds are that millions of families with perhaps minor flooding will attempt restoration themselves. Using these tips can help families without insurance save a little money in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.