33% of Homes Damaged by Floods Aren't in FEMA Flood Zones

Floods can happen anywhere. Just because you live outside of a delegated FEMA flood zone, that doesn’t mean you’re safe from a flooding catastrophe. In fact, according to recent data, 33% of homes damaged by flooding occur outside of FEMA flood zones. This data shows that just because FEMA doesn’t designate your property one of high risk, that doesn’t mean a flood can’t happen to you.

Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

In 2017 many families in the Houston area were caught off guard. The torrential rains produced by Hurricane Harvey caused massive flooding in areas where nobody even thought possible. In fact, according to the Houston Chronicle, a whopping 75% of homes damaged by flooding laid outside of flood zones.

This lead to tens of thousands of people dealing with flood damage without flood insurance. It’s hard enough to deal with the emotional impacts of a flood, but couple that with the financial disaster of being uninsured, and this becomes a massive tragedy.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that severe weather like hurricanes are getting stronger, not only in severity, but also growing larger in size. Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall estimates were higher than any hurricane in recorded history. This increasing intensity of storms puts more people at flood risk than ever before.    

Doubt cast on flood zones

Much has been learned from recent hurricanes and other natural disasters. Foremost, it’s clear that the flood zones created by FEMA are often wrong. Why is this happening? There are numerous reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the government just can’t keep up with changing weather patterns and residential and commercial development.

Residential and commercial development alters the shape of the land, and changes in climate have made once dryer areas more prone to heavy downpours. Severe weather has become more extreme than ever.

Couple these factors with aging drainage systems and poorly maintained runoff canals, and it often takes years before the government is able to designate a land area as a flood zone. In the meantime, this same area might flood three or four times. Just because the government has yet to declare a land area as a flood zone, doesn’t mean your house or business is safe.

If you’re a home or business owner you need to be thinking about flood insurance. In most places, it’s entirely affordable. Don’t you want peace of mind knowing one of your most important investments — your property — is safe from catastrophe the next time a flood strikes in a region FEMA didn’t account for?

Coastal storm surge

Like with FEMA flood maps, coastal storm surge maps no longer offer an accurate picture of your flooding risk. There are many factors for this, but much like with inland areas, changes in climate and increased coastal development have exposed properties near the ocean to some of the highest flooding risks in history.

Since 1900 sea levels have rose nearly 8 inches. With rising ocean levels, areas once deemed safe now experience imminent threat of storm surge damage. Higher sea levels increase the power and reach of storm surge. Where once storm surge mostly affected beachfront property, its dangers are now is reaching further inland damaging more property and eroding more land. Couple this erosion with heavy rainfall and you now have a recipe for flash flooding.

How high will sea levels rise?

It’s no longer “when” sea levels will rise, the question now is: How high? This means that almost every coastal city is at risk. Most studies state by the year 2100 sea levels will rise anywhere between 10 and 30 inches.

If you’re a property owner near the coast, increasing sea levels are something you don’t want to ignore. If you are uninsured or underinsured when it comes to flood insurance the time is now to act before it’s too late.

As the government and scientists scramble to keep up with new sea level data, it’s still unclear how human behavior patterns will continue to influence rising sea levels. Therefore, many of the flood maps and current flood models in use are quickly becoming obsolete.

Flash flooding

This type of flooding is some of the most dangerous because often people aren’t prepared for its sudden and devastating impacts. Just because your property isn’t located directly near water doesn’t mean you are safe from flash flooding. You’re at particular risk of flash flooding if you leave near:

Densely populated regions

Because of the amount of concrete and lack of open ground near cities, often stormwater has nowhere to go. This increases the risk of flash flooding. Runoff systems often backup furthering your risk of water damage.

Anywhere near rivers

Even if you don’t live directly next to a river, you still can be at risk of flooding. Heavy downpours can push waters over the banks and swell feeder streams. Even runoff areas that are usually dry can turn into swelling torrents of water in a matter of minutes.

Dams or levees

The infrastructure of the United States is aging. This includes our systems of dams and levees. Many of these structures throughout our country are becoming defective in their age. With so many dams and levees needing service, the government and Army Corps of Engineers are overwhelmed leading to increased chances of dam and levee failure. Look no further than the levees in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina to see the dangers.

Mountainous regions or steep hills

Water picks up speed and power as it moves downhill. Even just a few inches of flood waters moving at a high rate of speed can cause immense damage to land and property.

You can learn about the real flood risk to your property with a Flood and Climate Risk Assessment™ from Coastal Risk. Contact us today to order reports for your properties and take action to protect them.

flood risk assessment
flood risk assessment, FEMA flood zones, property protection

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