The cold wet truth Every part of the U.S. is at risk for flooding. While temperatures vary from region to region, one thing is constant from sea to shining sea: flood risk is everywhere, year-round. Since spring thaws melt the winter’s snow and ice, now is the time to remind your clients to think about their flood risk. Floods are the number one disaster in the U.S.—30-40 percent of the flood claims are paid in low-to-moderate risk areas (X Zone).1 In colder climates, large amounts of snowfall are often followed by major rainfall. Ground that is frozen can’t absorb the rain. Flooding causes damage and destruction across regions nationwide; wiping out homes, businesses and personal financial resources. Residents need to know they can take steps to protect their property and financial security before disaster strikes. As their professional, independent insurance agent, you can remind them to: • Purchase a flood insurance policy, which can sometimes be as cheap as a morning cup of coffee. • Review their current insurance policy and become familiar with coverages and exclusions. • Move the snow away from the property’s foundation. • Clear the gutters, drains and downspouts. • Install a sump pump in the basement or inspect the existing sump pump. • Make a flood plan that includes evacuation routes and keeps important papers in a safe, waterproof place.
The cause of flooding Now is the time to remind your clients that there are many conditions that can cause flooding in the winter and spring, including coastal flooding, ice jams and rapid snowmelt. Winds generated from winter storms can cause widespread tidal flooding and severe beach erosion along coastal areas. Long cold spells also can cause the surface of rivers to freeze, leading to ice jams. An ice jam occurs when a rise in the water level or a thaw breaks the ice into large chunks, which become jammed at the man-made and natural obstructions. A sudden release of an ice jam causes severe flooding. When the water is released, it flows downstream quickly causing significant rise in water levels in a short period of time (i.e., flash flooding). Sudden thaws of heavy snow pack also will lead to flooding. A midwinter or early spring thaw can produce large amounts of runoff in a short period of
Katherine howington, cfm, anfi National flood sales manager, Bankers Insurance Group
time. Because the ground is hard and still frozen from low winter temperatures, water cannot penetrate and be reabsorbed. The water then runs off the surface and flows into the lakes, streams and rivers, causing excess water to spill over their banks. From Atlantic to Pacific storms, a wet winter puts property at risk for flooding in both winter and spring.
Loss avoidance measure If your clients have flood policies, don’t forget to remind them about the loss avoidance measure in the policy section of the National Flood Insurance Program manual, which states:2 A general and temporary condition of flooding in the area near the described location must occur, even if the flood does not reach the building or a legally authorized official must issue an evacuation or other civil order for the community in which the building is located calling for measures to preserve life and property from the peril of flood. 1. We will pay up to $1,000 for costs your client incurs to protect their structure from a flood or imminent danger of flood for the following: