Floods and Flooding

Floods cause a lot of damage. They cause damage to people, crops, animals, roads and businesses. They also damage the environment in many ways: transporting toxins, causing erosion, landslides and wiping out fertile land.

Flash Flood in Texas

What causes floods? Some floods are easy to predict while others, such as those from dam failures or flash floods are more often surprises. If you live near a creek, river, stream or ocean, you could have to face the potential of a flood if the conditions are right. Heavy rains, flooding further up a river or upstream or snow melts could cause the levels of the water in your area to change – and sometimes rapidly.

In addition, there are flooding conditions along coastlines which could be caused by hurricanes or tsunamis. In the case of hurricanes, these are called tidal surges or tidal floods. These tidal surges are also called storm surges. They are produced by water being moved by wind rather than by large volumes of water.

According to Norfolk.gov, "Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. In the past, large death tolls have resulted from the rise of the ocean associated with many of the major hurricanes that have made landfall." There are ways to prevent the damage that floods can do, such as constructing sandbags and placing them around the property to be protected. In some cases that doesn't work, though. Too much water can even wipe out sandbags.

Flood Facts:

    Flood fact graphic
  • In the past 5 years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods.
  • Everyone lives in a flood zone. (For more information, visit our Flood Zones FAQs.)
  • Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area and have a Federally backed mortgage, your mortgage lender requires you to have flood insurance. (To find your flood risk, fill out the Flood Risk Profile.)
  • Just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
  • Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
  • A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
  • Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.
  • New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.

Source: Floodsmart.gov

What can you do to mitigate the damage that flood waters do to you and your family?

  1. Pay attention to the weather.
  2. Plan a way of escape if flood waters threaten you.
  3. Prepare an emergency bag for your family in case you need to evacuate.
  4. Buy flood insurance BEFORE a flood is likely to occur. (There is flood insurance for renters as well as flood insurance for homeowners.)
  5. Prepare your property prior to an event.
  6. Be ready to respond immediately.

There is no way to know when the next flood will occur, so plan ahead. Be prepared. Talk with your family about where to meet if something does happen.

Here are a few Flood Tips to keep you safe:

  • Never walk in moving water. It could be deeper or be moving faster than you think.
  • Do not drive into flood water. All it takes is two feet of water to move a car.
  • If flooding is imminent, turn off electricity, gas and water.
  • If you have to evacuate, don't delay. Leave as quickly as possible.
  • Be aware that power lines could be down. If you need to take an alternate route, do so.
  • When it is time to return to your home, damage may not be readily evident. Be cautious.
  • Clean and disinfect everything as flood waters can carry bacteria and other potentially hazardous materials.
  • Water supplies may also be damaged, so you may need to boil your water when you return. Check with your local authorities to find out for certain.

Note: If your car is damaged in a flood and you have it insured for comprehensive coverage, then you are likely to be reimbursed for the damage done to your vehicle. Of course, it depends on the coverage you selected. Regardless, it is best to file a claim with your insurance company and see what they say even if you only have liability coverage. Take pictures of the damage. An adjuster will come out and do this, too, but it's best to take your own pictures for your own records. Make notes, keep track of dates, and write down everything including who you talk to and when as well as what they say.

Insurance for homeowners is a bit more complicated. Homeowner's policies do not cover flood damage or backed up sewer problems due to a flood. You won't be covered for your home, contents or living expenses if you have to be evacuated (even if it is mandatory). You have to purchase an endorsement for flood insurance. You can also purchase flood insurance through the FEMA FLood Insurance program.

You might be eligible for federal assistance, but that is almost always in the form of loans – and that depends upon whether or not the area you live in is declared a disaster area. That is done by the federal government.

Immediately after a disaster, contact your insurance agent or claims office and let them know what has happened and they will send out a claims adjuster.

Reporting the loss is the first step and this needs to be done in a timely fashion. Even if you think they will say "no", you need to get everything on record. Document who you talk to and when you talk to them. If you do not get a return contact from an adjuster, call again. You should probably also consider submitting a claim in writing at this point, too.

Take pictures of your home and belongings. If your insurance company denies your claim, you may decide to pursue legal options OR you may choose to pursue federal assistance. Either way, you will want a record of your loss. And, when it comes to tax time, you will be able to deduct some or all of the losses on your taxes. Keep records of everything.

This is not a pleasant subject, but at least this information could help you mitigate your losses. Be prepared and be safe.