TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas -- Buying flood insurance is a smart thing to do to protect your home, business, family and financial security from flood losses.
A community needs to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) before its residents are eligible to buy the federally-administered coverage, which features uniform rates nationwide. The town of Merkel, Texas recently joined the NFIP program, after parts of it flooded this summer.
"We had a flood event in an area which doesn't normally flood," said Donnie Edwards, who had only been on the job as City Manager for seven months. "I got a call from insurance agents regarding people wanting to purchase flood insurance for their homes. I had no idea that it wasn't available. That's kind of how we got to where we are now."
Edwards continued, "When I first started looking into it I thought to myself if Merkel had not joined the NFIP there had to be a good reason. I couldn't find it. There wasn't any."
The flood damage in Merkel was one reason that Taylor County was included in a presidential major declaration for severe storms and flooding in Texas this summer, from June 16 to Aug. 3.
"We had never experienced a rain like this and I've been around here 45 years," Edwards said. "Some homes were mildly affected while others sustained major damage. The weather just seemed to park right over us and rained and rained."
Edwards began to learn about the NFIP from the website www.floodsmart.gov. NFIP is administered by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). More information was provided by a FEMA representative responding to the disaster in Merkel.
"He had all the pamphlets and he gave a presentation that was very informative," Edwards said.
Edwards learned that there were some misconceptions about the flood insurance program. One was that flood insurance could only be purchased by persons living in the floodplain. Another was that to file a claim the flooding had to be a direct result of water rising out of its banks. The third was that flood insurance is too expensive.
A FEMA NFIP specialist, Kathy Graf, explained the program. "A flood is an excess of water on land (two or more acres) that is normally dry," Graf said. "The NFIP definition includes inland tidal water; unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; mud flow; collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining cause by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood."
Once a community joins the NFIP by adopting and agreeing to enforce an approved local floodplain management ordinance (or equivalent county court order), residents can buy flood insurance through local insurance agencies. The insurance does not take effect until 30 days after purchase, however.
Flood insurance is available to homeowners for dwellings and contents, to businesses for buildings and contents, and to renters for contents. Rates begin at $112 per year for minimum coverage of a house that is outside the flood plain boundaries or $317 yearly for the maximum coverage of $250,000. Rates are higher in the flood plain.
Merkel resident Audrey Moore said, "I'd buy flood insurance in a heartbeat and I've said that for years." Although they say we are not in a flood zone we flooded. I'd buy it even if it costs $300 after all we've been through. We got nine inches of water and we're spending our personal money to recoup our losses."
City Manager Edwards summed it up: "All 60 people that were affected could have had flood insurance if the community had joined the NFIP years ago. I've learned...