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Your Homeowners Policy Probably DOESN'T Cover Flooding, So Get Prepared Now

If you purchased your dream home on the shores the Atlantic Ocean or one of Delawares bays, youre probably hyper-attuned to the risk of flooding and other damage from the remnants of Hurricane Ian and other storms. But you can also be in serious danger of flooding if you live miles from any significant body of water. All it takes is an ill-planned construction of a neighboring house or neighborhood or the growing threat of extremely intense rainfall due to climate change.

Indeed, recent data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimate that 14.6 million properties nationwide are at risk of damage from what experts call a 100-year flood. This is far more than the 8.7 million properties shown on Federal flood maps created as recently as 2020. The new calculation accounts for sea-level rise, increasing rainfall, and flooding along smaller creeks that havent been mapped by the federal mapping program.

How does it happen? One imminent danger comes when new developments filled with concrete streets replace areas where rainfall previously drained into the ground. 

Other dangers can come from seemingly benign developments a neighbor putting in a new driveway that likewise prohibits absorption and perhaps even steers water toward your property, for example. Or when sensitive wetlands or other rain-absorbing grounds are inappropriately developed.

Several days of heavy rain and/or snowmelt can also lead to flooding when the amount of water exceeds the capacity of underground drainage via the sewer pipes and street drains that are supposed to carry water away from communities.

Simply put, when the rainwater has nowhere to go, it can head straight into your home. If youd like a sense of just how much damage it can do, check out this link.

All of this leads to the big, central and vitally important message of this post: The vast majority of standard homeowners policies to NOT cover flood damage. The only way to ensure youre covered is by purchasing a special flood insurance policy. 

You might be surprised to read this your insurance agent may have even told you youre not at high-risk so youre not required to have a flood insurance policy. But as shown by the simple facts in this brochure, flood risks change over time, so you could be in far more danger now than a couple of years ago.

Here's another important message youd be very surprised to know how inexpensive flood insurance is. As an example, one of our friends in downtown Lewes owns a 3,000 square foot home five blocks from the Lewes- Rehoboth Canal in a zone deemed to be moderate risk by FEMA. He has $350,000 worth of coverage for his structure and contents and pays only $700 per year. And while coastal Delaware in particular has many neighborhoods where proximity to water and other factors put residents at a higher risk, most properties are in the moderate-to-low risk category.

Get Ready for the Next Big Storm Right now

Delmarva residents have been extraordinarily lucky when it comes to avoiding storm damage over the past several decades even though we have a very long Atlantic Ocean coastline and a lot of developed property along our various bays. Yet you dont have to go too far to find many people who still remember the devastating great storm of 1962, which caused $50 million in damage, which is equivalent to $357 million today.

One big lesson from that danger is to heed evacuation orders if they happen, as many did during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Another is to for inevitable future storms first by getting flood insurance and preparing your family to be safe.

  • Write down emergency phone numbers and keep them handy and programmed into your phone.

  • Prepare an emergency supply kit with non-perishable food, water, batteries, cash, vital prescription medicines, extra IDs, and other items and store it in a safe place where it wont be affected by flooding.

  • Plan your evacuation route so that you know how to avoid low-lying areas that tend to be the first to flood, and make sure your gas tank is full well before the storm hits. 

  • Once you know a storm might be coming, make sure you move lawn furniture, bikes, grills, propane tanks or other items that could get blown around and damage your property.

  • If its going to be a big storm, use storm shutters or nail pieces of plywood to the outside window frames to protect your glass windows.

  • Be ready to turn off your power if you see flooding or downed power lines.

If you need to evacuate:

  • Grab your emergency supply kit and only take what you really need with you (cell phone, chargers, medicines, identification like a passport or license, and cash).

  • Unplug your appliances. If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water.

  • Follow the roads that emergency workers recommend even if theres traffic. Other routes might be blocked or flooded. Never drive through flooded areascars and other vehicles can be swept away or may stall in just 6 inches of moving water.

  • Contact your local emergency management office and ask if they offer accommodations for owners and their pets. Learn more about evacuating wit your pet.