Why more people don’t have flood insurance

An Associated Press story last week caused a few jaws to drop when it said very few of the residents along the Red River Valley have flood insurance. The numbers were gleaned from a check through January, the latest date for which data was available.

There isn’t a lot of flooding in the Red River Valley in January, which may account for the low number. Quite often, residents “time” the purchase of the insurance to coincide with the arrival of flood season. Some of the residents I reported on last week are still in a 30-day waiting period before the insurance takes effect. They thought the flood would come later in the spring, as it usually does.

MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill reports on this tonight on All Things Considered.

You’re not required to have flood insurance unless you live in a high-risk flood plain. Many people in Moorhead don’t, but will, and they’re not moving. Check out the new proposed 100-year floodplain map from there (that’s the area that can expect to have a flood over a 100-year period). Now compare it to the proposed 500-year flood-plain map.

In effect, the homes are moving from a “low risk” to a “high risk” flooding area, at least on paper.

But it may not matter. When flooding gripped the Texas area in 2007, a check of records found 25 percent of claims paid for flood damage are in these relatively “low risk” areas.

Revising flood plains is happening throughout the country. In New Baltimore, Michigan, they’re raising the flood plain base by 14 inches. But residents are fighting the reclassification.

About 900 more buildings in Moorhead were added to the proposed flood plain, according to the Fargo Forum newspaper last fall (registration required), giving an indication why homeowners are between a rock and a wet place.


The cost of insurance can be a kick in the wallet.

To insure a $150,000 home without a basement in a high-risk “A” zone, plus $50,000 in contents, costs $1,653 a year, not including policy fees, according to floodsmart.gov, the National Flood Insurance Program Web site.

But in Moorhead, as in other places, a homeowner who finds him/herself thrown into a “high risk” flood zone, can still be “grandfathered” and pay the same rates as “low risk” residents.

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