Hurricane Irene Good Reminder to Consider Flood Insurance

Hurricane Floyd brought a devastating 15 feet of storm surgeStorm surge damage falls under flood insurance, which the majority of Americans don't have. Image: DAVE GATLEY/ FEMA News Photo

Although wind speeds are the talk swirling around Hurricane Irene, you need to worry just as much about the potential for storm surge, which your home owners policy isn’t going to cover. Hurricane Ike in 2008 created a storm surge of nearly 10 feet, overtopping Galveston’s sea wall, and Hurricane Ivan in 2004 caused billions in flood damage from Florida to New York.

Although wind speeds are the talk swirling around Hurricane Irene, you need to worry just as much about the potential for storm surge, which your home owners policy isn’t going to cover. Hurricane Ike in 2008 created a storm surge of nearly 10 feet, overtopping Galveston’s sea wall, and Hurricane Ivan in 2004 caused billions in flood damage from Florida to New York.

Storm surge damage falls under flood insurance, which you can get from the federal government or a handful of private insurers.

But fewer than one-fifth of U.S. home owners buy flood insurance, which covers property and personal belongings, even though more than four out of every five natural disasters involve flooding, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Since hurricane season continues into November, consider contacting the National Flood Insurance Program which can tell you your risk of flood and how much a policy would cost you.

The average flood insurance policy in 2010 cost about $600 a year and the average claim over the last five years was about $34,000, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says.

Although it’s probably too late for most home owners to buy a flood policy before Irene hits because there’s a 30-day waiting period for coverage to start, there are three exceptions:

  • You’re buying flood insurance because you’re getting a new mortgage.
  • Your lender tells you that you need flood insurance and you pay for that policy when you complete your loan application.
  • When the Federal Emergency Management Agency revises your community’s flood map, you can buy flood insurance with a one-day waiting period during the 13 months following the change.