October 17, 2016. By Ashley Agnew:

Over Columbus Day weekend, I visited my husband in North Carolina, where he is living while stationed at the Naval Base in Virginia Beach (NAS Oceana).  Over the weekend, there were warnings of heavy rains as a result of Hurricane Matthew.  The consensus among local news stations was that Saturday would bring the worst of it, around four inches of rain, leaving me without worry about my flight on Sunday morning.  We fit all of our errands in on Friday and deemed Saturday a good pajamas-and-movie day, which was much welcomed after a busy week and endless flight delays. As Derek and I headed to bed on Saturday night after our traditional farewell glass of wine, we looked outside to scan the severity of the storm.  Sure enough, there were merely puddles in the street with no sign of danger.  Branches were on the ground but the winds were already dying down.    When we woke up on Sunday, however, it was a completely different view.

The roads had flooded overnight as Hurricane Matthew latched on the path of another storm, leaving the water level touching the bottom of our mailbox with others completely drowned; the lawn of our home on the hill completely covered.  3.5 feet of water had immersed the neighborhood.  The airline was flexible as our county was in a state of emergency.  I changed my flight to Wednesday and bunkered down for a few extra days down south.  Confident that this would be the latest we would be unable to get out of our driveway, we were in for yet another surprise.

Overnight on Sunday, a local dam collapsed, further flooding our neighborhood and adding another six inches to the water level.   Neighbors were now traveling the streets in not only canoes and kayaks, but motorboats as well since the water was so deep.  By Tuesday neighbors were in waders fishing in our front lawn and a Wednesday flight was out of the question. Luckily, we only had a bit of water in our garage, but others were not as fortunate. The storm that was supposed to simply brush the coast paralyzed counties.  A common discussion amongst the neighbors was the value of flood insurance.  The stories were all the same: homeowners could not understand why they were required to purchase flood insurance when they purchased their homes (the small town of South Mills is located around 45 miles west of any major shoreline) but were glad to have it now.

Adam Hofmann of Reid-Hofmann Insurance agrees that when it comes to Mother Nature, it is better to be safe than sorry.  One of the many wonderful insurance providers we work with on behalf of ourselves and clients, I reached out to Adam for his take on the pros and cons of flood insurance:

“Two of the most common objections we hear at Reid-Hofmann Insurance regarding flood insurance are ‘Doesn’t disaster assistance cover flood damage?’ and ‘I live nowhere near a flood zone’.  While both those objections may have merit, they do not completely eliminate your need for flood insurance.  First, let’s put this right out there: the typical unendorsed homeowner’s policy does not cover flooding. Furthermore, to receive disaster assistance after a flood, the President has to declare a state of emergency. Consider a more localized flood, caused by faulty drainage systems, melting snow, or heavy rains in a small local river such as those you’re experiencing in the inner banks of North Carolina- the President most likely won’t react to this type of flooding as a “disaster”.  In short, that means no disaster assistance for you…”

He is absolutely correct. Although the Coast Guard did perform routine fly-bys, it was up to the neighborhood to rally together for provisions and assistance.  Most were ill-prepared since the storm was due to miss the area, and our area of South Mills is not typically a flood zone.

“‘I live in an elevated area and nowhere near a flood zone’ is probably the most common objection to insuring against flood damage.” Adam states.  “First, we all live in Flood Zones, it’s just that some are high risk, and some are very low [preferred] risk zones. If you really are outside of a high risk flood zone, your preferred risk policy will carry a very small annual premium, however consider the definition of flood in a typical policy:

A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from:

  • Overflow of inland or tidal waters;
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source;
  • Mudflow (a river of liquid and flowing mud on the surfaces of normally dry land areas); or
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above.

As you can see, this is a pretty general definition that potentially puts all homes at risk for flood damage- maybe new development in your area has changed the surrounding drainage patterns; maybe an unusually cold and snowy winter has increased run-off. As with all forms of insurance, it makes sense to be educated and prepared prior to the loss instead of caught of guard and wondering why your homeowners’ policy isn’t responding. Flood insurance is easy to buy, applied to all homes, and just may be less expensive than you think.”

Adam’s last statement was also a reoccurring theme in the neighborhood chatter.  Although residents were a bit put-off by the need for the additional insurance, they were comforted when learning about how minimal the cost of coverage actually was.  If you have not reviewed your homeowner’s policy recently, or if you are in the process of purchasing a home, be sure to take the time to speak with your agent to fully understand your coverage.

The events of last week certainly put things into perspective, and despite the damage to personal property, missed work days, and cabin fever, we were much more fortunate than the areas that received the brunt of the storm, including Haiti, South Carolina, and areas in North Carolina not so far away from South Mills.  We hope that you and your families were able to stay safe from the effects of the storm. If you would like to donate to the victims of Hurricane Matthew, feel free to follow this helpful link.