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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Florida Legislature Addresses Sea Level Rise

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

With 1,350 miles of coastline, you’d think that Florida would be bullish when it came to addressing coastal flooding caused by global warming.  Yet until recently, not only did the state legislature do little to address the fears of those who live near the coast, but it refused to entertain discussion about sea level rise.  All that changed when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed two bills into law last week that pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in flood control projects.  While some who live near the coast have said it’s about time, others who’ve seen water in their neighborhoods rise on clear days during high tide think it’s too little too late.  So severe is the threat of flooding in some coastal communities that three Florida insurers recently announced they wouldn’t renew some 53,000 homeowner’s policies.  More than an inconvenience, this has left many homeowners scrambling to find coverage just as hurricane season begins.  If you live on or near the coast and are wondering what you should do to protect your property from flooding, here are my top-10 tips.

  1. Take stock of your situation. – Inspect your property to determine how much of a threat rising water poses.  If your neighborhood was hard hit by Hurricanes Matthew or Irma, you need to take measures to ensure that should the water start to rise, you will be prepared to defend your property.  Now is the time to take stock of any deficiencies that could give rising water entry to your home.  Seal cracks in your foundation.  Make sure your window seals haven’t been compromised.  Check weatherstripping on all exterior doors.  Clean your gutters, Repair or replace your roof.
  2. It isn’t easy going green. – But that’s what you need if you want to reduce runoff to sewers.  Asphalt and concrete are like express lanes for rainwater.  Heavy rain can quickly overwhelm a sewer system to cause flooding.   By reducing the number of impervious surfaces and providing more areas around your home that absorb moisture, you will improve the odds of keeping rising water at bay.
  3. Is your landscaping a liability? – The next time your neighborhood experiences a passing thundershower take stock of your yard.  If you see ponding taking place, you may need to make some alterations to your landscaping.  Any plant or swale that impedes the flow of water from your yard to the street needs to be corrected before a named storm heads your way. By taking a little time to tweak your yard, you can improve your property’s drainage enough to give you a fighting chance if the water starts to rise in your neighborhood.
  4. Consider adding extra flood control measures. – If you really want to be proactive when it comes to flood control, consider upping the ante by installing additional drainage in your yard and non-return valves to your plumbing that prevents water from backing up into your home.  If you live in a flood-prone area, consider adding flood vents that will allow water to flow freely through crawlspaces and the garage.
  5. How low can you go? – If you want to protect your homes air conditioner, heat pump, circuit breaker, water meter and other service equipment, consider elevating them above the level of any expected flooding.  This can be accomplished by constructing a platform or pedestal that’s at least one foot above the potential flood level.  While you’re at it, you should do the same for any propane tanks that you have on your property since these can be displaced or swept away by floodwater.
  6. Be proactive about flood defense. – If your home was previously damaged by floodwater, consider doubling down on defensive measures that can help you defend your property the next time the water begins to rise.  Everything from flood alert sensors that warn you of rising water to sandbags, flood gates, and inflatable floodwalls can be the difference between major and minor flood damage.
  7. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. – If you wish to reduce the amount of damage that a flood can do to your property, you need to have a plan.  This means safeguarding important documents and moving expensive items to high ground before the water starts to rise.  If you have a second floor, plan to move electronics, furniture, rugs and other valuables upstairs before a major storm hits.   If not, locate a storage unit away from the coast where you can move these items if a named storm is expected to hit your area. 
  8. You don’t need to barricade your bathroom. – But you do need to defend it against rising water.  Not only can a sewer backup create a smelly mess, it can release toxic chemicals and pathogens into your home.  That means if you have a septic system, have it pumped out before a named storm hits.  If your home is connected to a municipal sewer system, make sure your floor drains are plugged and your sewer drains are clear before torrential rains cause a backup that could make your home uninhabitable.
  9. Do you plan on evacuating your home? – Before you head for higher ground make sure you shut off your home’s electrical main, deploy any flood control systems and turn off the water main.  This way you’ll minimize the damage and make it that much easier to mitigate any damage that rising floodwaters can cause.
  10. When was the last time you spoke to your insurance agent? – While many homeowners think they don’t need flood insurance if they aren’t in a designated flood zone, you should know that flooding can happen to any homeowner in Florida.  Since homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover damage caused by rising water, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to discuss the cost of adding a flood policy.  According to FEMA, “Just an inch of floodwater can cause $25,000 in property damage.” 

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at

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