Gulfport, MS -- Every year, more homes in the U.S. are damaged by floods than by any other natural disaster, a fact well known to residents of the seven southern Mississippi counties affected by Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili late last month and early this month. Residents of those counties have already made 1,335 flood insurance claims to begin their rebuilding process.
The severe weather resulted in President Bush declaring a major disaster that included Amite, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, Pike and Stone counties for individual disaster assistance.
Disaster officials are reminding homeowners throughout Mississippi that they should purchase flood insurance coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), to reduce future flood losses. The program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).
There are 41,528 Mississippi NFIP policyholders in 274 communities with coverage amounting to nearly $130 million.
"Flood damage - unlike wind damage - is not covered by homeowner's or business insurance policies," State Coordinating Officer Leon Shaifer said. "This coverage must be purchased separately and is available only in communities that participate in the NFIP. And people need to keep in mind there is a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy becomes effective."
FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bolch also cautioned people who think they can rely on federal disaster assistance instead of flood insurance.
"Disaster assistance is only available when the President issues a major disaster declaration that includes Individual Assistance," Bolch said. "Even then, it is quite limited---and usually in the form of a loan that must be repaid with interest. It is hardly a substitute for flood insurance, which also covers losses from small, localized flood events."
Flood insurance may be purchased through local insurance agents. For more information call NFIP at 1-888-CALL-FLOOD.