Over the past several years, our state, local, tribal, and territorial partners have experienced, first hand, destruction caused by floods in communities across the country. In fact, for the 2017 and 2018 hurricane seasons combined, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) paid its policyholders more than $11 billion to assist in their recovery efforts. And yet, that amount doesn’t touch the thousands of others with flood losses who weren’t insured.
The state of Virginia was no exception. Tropical Storm Michael and Hurricane Florence impacted the Old Dominion with back-to-back flood events in September and October of 2018. Neither flood event reached the level of a presidential disaster declaration, leaving many Virginians without individual federal assistance to rebuild and repair their homes and businesses.
Those Virginians who had flood insurance policies received a total of $7,927,742 in claims as of January 31, 2019. This vital assistance helped them rebuild their lives and businesses.
Unfortunately, only three percent of Virginians have flood insurance. Virginia has committed to address this financial vulnerability. This year, the state of Virginia proclaimed the second week of March Flood Awareness Week, which focused on closing the insurance gap and encouraging residents to purchase flood insurance.
Virginia isn’t alone in appreciating the need to close the flood insurance coverage gap. Oklahoma has experienced numerous historical flood events. For example, the May 1943 flood damaged several communities along the Arkansas River. Over the past 50 years, the NFIP has paid nearly $200 million to impacted Oklahomans. To recognize the value of flood insurance, Oklahomans celebrate Flood Insurance Awareness for the entire month of March.
Often, after severe weather events, I visit flooded communities, meet claims adjusters, and talk with disaster survivors whose lives have been turned upside down. The power of Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me, although I am beginning to see the tide change from a nation of disaster response and recovery to a disaster resilient and insured nation.
Movements start at the grassroots level. Like Virginia and Oklahoma, states can lead the way by informing their citizens the value and benefits of flood insurance and by encouraging them to take action.
In the years to come, I’m hopeful that this movement will transform communities and lead to more insured disaster survivors, quicker recovery, and less disaster suffering. The measure of success will be meeting with individuals who are on the road to recovery more quickly because they’ve protected their homes and belongings through flood insurance after a severe weather event.
For more information about the value of flood insurance, visit www.Floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-4661.