FEMA flood maps have changed or will be changing for most areas in the Low Country and your home may have been moved into a Flood Zone X. You were previously in Zone AE and your mortgage company required you to have a flood insurance policy. Your insurance company issued you a Preferred Risk Policy that will be in effect for one year. Your mortgage company no longer requires a flood policy.
Should I renew this flood policy when it expires?
That is certainly a valid and important question. To answer and to also assist you in making an educated consumer decision, here are some facts to consider:
§ Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding.
§ Flooding can happen anywhere, not just in AE or VE zones. Nationwide, more than 25% of flood insurance claims come from outside AE or VE zones. That figure was probably much higher for the 2018 Hurricane Florence flooding event in North and South Carolina.
§ 80% of Hurricane Harvey (Houston) victims did not have flood insurance as their homes were not in AE or VE zones.
§ 80% of flood damage from Hurricane Irma ($20B - $30B) came from uninsured residential properties located in Zone X.
How much damage can water do to my home?
Remarkably, just one inch of water in an average-sized home can cost more than $25,000 in repairs. That is way more than most of us can afford to pay out of pocket and makes the $500 flood policy premium seem like a bargain!
How much reliance should I place on these new FEMA flood maps?
Not much in our opinion. Consider these facts:
· The new flood maps (effective 12/7/18) were prepared before the area’s last 3 flooding events – 25” rain in 2015, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and Hurricane Irma in 2017
§ The 12/7/18 maps only consider flooding due to a storm surge from a Category 3 hurricane. A Category 4 or 5 storm would produce much greater flooding from the storm surge or rainfall.
§ The maps do not consider Climate Change – Rising Sea levels and do not consider unusually heavy and persistent rainfall.
Can you give an example of the inadequacy of the maps?
Yes. Most of Edisto Beach was moved from the high-risk VE zone to an AE zone. Yet the island has been underwater twice since the maps were revised - during Hurricane Matthew (2016) and Hurricane Irma (2017).
Do you have any other comments?
Just keep in mind that Mother Nature does not consider these man-made maps when she does her thing. Floodwaters are not going to stop where the line is on the map!
- Henry Lowndes