By Catherine Powell
Image courtesy Pixabay
Most everyone in north Florida breathed a sigh of relief after Tropical Storm Elsa blew through town last week. While there were some downed trees and powerlines, it wasn’t nearly as hair raising a storm as Hurricane Irma was a few years back. While the high wind and torrential rain that comes along with a named storm leave many people quaking in their boots when the weatherman tells them one is headed their way, what most homeowners don’t realize is that when it comes to severe damage, there’s another peril that can be unleashed whenever severe weather rears its ugly head. I’m talking about flooding. We insurance agents know that when it comes to damage claims, flood damage trumps wind and rain damage by far. To help you get prepared for the next named storm, I thought I’d give you ten was to prepare your property for a potential flood.
- Know your enemy. – It doesn’t take a named storm to allow floodwater to inundate your home. All it takes is a torrential downpour that can cause standing water to rise faster than your property can shed it. It isn’t unusual for a squall to drop several inches of water per hour. While a couple inches don’t seem like a lot, it quickly adds up if the storm slows to a crawl or stalls over your area.
- Know your home’s topography. – Do you live on or near the water? Do you know how high water will have to rise before it reaches your front or back door? Do you know how high the water rose in your neighborhood during previous named storms? You don’t have to be in a flood zone for your home to wind up flooded.
- Identify and eliminate any weak points on your property. – While sewers can and will drain water from your street, if there’s anything that slows or dams the water on your property, a flood could be imminent the next time the sky turns black, and the water starts falling in buckets. You’d be surprised at how easy it is for leaf litter and twigs to form a dam in any yard. So too can plants that haven’t been trimmed recently. One of the best ways to gauge weaknesses in your drainage is to hop outside just after a storm passes. Anywhere you see ponding in your yard is an area you’ll want to address before the next named storm heads our way.
- Is your mind in the sewer? – Well maybe it should be. If your sewer becomes blocked during a squall, the result could be flooding or worse should the sewer water back up into your home. If you haven’t had your sewer inspected in years, the time to do so is before a hurricane passes through town. Roots and debris can build up inside a sewer to restrict or even stop the flow of wastewater. Don’t wait until you’re up to your ankles in sewer water to take preventative action. Also consider installing backflow valves to prevent sewer water from percolating into your home.
- When was the last time you cleaned out your gutters? – Flooding doesn’t only come from the ground up. Serious water intrusion can be caused from the top down. One of the key runoff devices on your home are the gutters. They’re meant to help collect and channel runoff to the street. If they get blocked, not only won’t they be able to do their job properly, water that backs up onto your roof could find its way beneath the shingles into your home. If you haven’t cleaned out the gutters in 6-months or more, now is the time to do so.
- Don’t have a false sense of security. – Even if your home has never flooded in the past, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future. Many Texas residents were confident their homes would never flood until Hurricane Harvey came to town. While you may not wish to spend a lot of time and money girding your home for a flood, there are several things you can do to prepare for the worst without spending a fortune. Invest in enough sandbags, plastic liners and plastic sheets to prevent flood water from entering exterior doors. While this won’t keep your home high and dry if the water rises several feet, it will keep the initial foot of water from saturating everything you own. Sometimes that’s all it takes to stop the water in its tracks.
- Plan on moving expensive electronics and valuables to high ground. – Even if you live in a rancher, you’d be surprised at how much you can cram into an attic if need be. Roll up any carpets and stow them atop the sofa or counter. Not all floods are waist deep. Do what you can before a flood to save what can be ruined by a few inches of water.
- Secure loose items in and around your property. – Floods don’t just attack what’s inside your home. Flood waters can sweep away items outside your home as well. That means you need to stow or strap down any items floodwaters can carry away.
- Don’t forget to shut off the power before a flood occurs. – Many people don’t realize that floods sometimes spawn fires. If water inside your home reaches an active electrical outlet, a short can occur that could spawn a house fire. Whether you intend to leave the area ahead of a storm or wish to ride out the storm in your home, you should shut off the main before the waters rise and your house goes up in flames.
- Have you thought about getting flood insurance? – While homeowner’s insurance covers damage caused by rain, wind and even lightning strikes, the one thing it doesn’t cover is flood damage. Since the cost to acquire flood insurance isn’t all that steep, it wouldn’t hurt to call your agent to get a quote before the next named storm rears its ugly head.
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 http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/