It’s said that April showers bring May flowers. But for many residents of the Midwest, record rainstorms that began the last week of April unfortunately brought historic flooding. Parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana received 10 to 15 inches of rain in 7 days, causing rivers to overrun banks and levees and endanger both lives and property.
The flood waters caused evacuation of residential and business areas, closed parts of Interstates 44 and 55, and shut down a 14-mile stretch of the Mississippi River. And the storm continued to travel, resulting in flash flood watches for parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana and Ohio. Ten deaths have been attributed to the flooding.
Reuters reports that hundreds of Midwestern communities are struggling to deal with the aftermath. In Arkansas, one of the hardest hit states, 11 counties have declared a state of emergency. The immediate concern, of course, is making sure that residents who did not evacuate are safe, and that those whose homes were damaged have a place to stay, clothing, needed medications, etc. Residents also need to exercise caution when returning to flooded homes and businesses.
Although damage estimates haven’t yet been completed, the long-term clean-up is likely to be historic in terms of costs, as well. Last August, flooding in Louisiana affected more than 55,000 homes and 6,000 businesses, resulting in $8.7B in damages.
According to Houselogic.com, the average insurance claim for flooding is $30,000, although just 6 inches of water could cause damage in excess of $39,000 to a 2,000-square-foot home. It largely depends on how hard the area is hit and how high the water level gets. Since flooding isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, and less than 20% of homeowners purchase special flood insurance, for many affected by flooding the associated costs will come out of pocket.
So how do you know if your home is at risk of flooding?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) places about 8 percent of housing units nationwide (over 10 million homes) in 100-year floodplains, also called Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). If you live in one of these areas, you may be required to purchase flood insurance and to adhere to flood mitigation requirements (such as the lowest floor of the property being at or above a specific elevation).
Even if you aren’t required to purchase flood insurance, it doesn’t mean your home is safe from flooding. You may live in an area where flooding risk is minimal, or which hasn’t been studied, but where flooding is still possible.
In either case, it’s good to know what you can do to protect your home from possible flooding, and to prepare for it just as you would with any other natural disaster. Below are a few tips and additional resources.