Flood Insurance – Who Really Needs It?
Recently Maria Scandale wrote an informative piece on flood insurance that got me thinking. I well remember Superstorm Sandy, although I was one of the lucky ones on the oceanside who had only minor damage. I still shudder as I remember my first drive down the Island, seeing every house on every street on the bayside with piles of ruined belongings in their front yards. Luckily, we had raised our house on pilings when I retired to live full-time on LBI.
But as Maria’s story enumerated the reasons to buy flood insurance, I remembered what happened when the friendly flood insurance adjustor came to visit me that fateful season. Like so many people, my garage was packed with junk I should have gotten rid of years ago. When I say “junk” it was really more like things that could have been put on Craigslist or sold in a garage sale, but who gets around to that?
Water came through my garage, so everything in contact with the floor was ruined. I piled it all in the driveway, pending inspection. Luckily, my water heater and furnace were raised on platforms, as was my beloved wine cooler. Everything else ended up outside. That is after we had the sand plowed out of our driveways.
When the flood insurance inspector showed up, he turned out to be a nice guy from down South – Arkansas, I think. He very officially walked around, said “um-hum” a few times and made some notes on his official clipboard. This is the government way.
I said, “How much do you think I might get for all the highly valuable stuff in the driveway?”
“Excuse me, did you say nothing?”
“Your flood insurance starts coverage on the first habitable floor.”
“Then why do I have flood insurance? My first floor is probably 16 feet above mean high tide. If the water reached the first floor, the entire Island would probably be gone!”
Oh, man, was I slightly unhappy. Not only had I been paying all those insurance premiums, but I had a totally worthless, soggy pile of junk in my driveway. Being located on an up-sloping street put my house above the flood zone height. Add the pilings, I was well above any flooding danger, except possibly a direct hit by a hurricane (even more direct than Sandy). So why did I pay for flood insurance all these many years?
This is where the disclaimer comes in … pay attention, please. Do not run out and cancel your flood insurance until you are pretty darn sure your situation is similar to mine. If you live on the bayside of LBI, you may wish to make sure you are at least 50 feet above mean high tide. Well, maybe not that much, but you get the point.
Insurance is a wonderful thing. It’s a clever game where the insurance company collects your premiums over the years and tries not to pay you when you need it the most. Just consider, there are situations where you might not really need flood insurance. Please, check carefully before you do anything drastic. If things don’t work out, let me know and maybe I can help you out the next time we have a 100-year storm.
Larry Chalk lives in Ft. Myers, Fla., and Haven Beach.