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Tuesday, September 19, 2023

What to Do When the Water Rises

 By Catherine Powell

Image by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Pix4free

I don't know if you noticed, but lately the evening news has looked more like the Weather Channel due to all the storms and floods that have been inundating areas around the globe.  Just last night I witnessed the devastation that occurred in Syria after 16 inches of rain caused two dams to fail.  Last month they aired footage of historic floods in places like Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont.  Whether these floods are caused by climate change or not, it just goes to show how quickly rising water can upend people's lives.  Being that I live in Hurricane Alley, it doesn't take that much foresight to imagine the damage that rising water can do to the place where I live.  Even if you don't live in areas that are prone to flooding, as the news coverage proves, this doesn't mean that your town or your home can't be subjected to a flood.  To help you deal with such a possibility, I have come up with ten things you can do when the water rises.

#1: Don't wait until the water is lapping at your door.  The worst time to consider flood mitigation is when the water is threatening to enter your home.  Depending on such things as elevation, landscaping, and drainage, your home's potential for flooding should be assessed as soon as possible.  The best time to do this is immediately following an afternoon thunderstorm.  If you see water pooling in your yard, this can spell disaster down the road.  Many times ponding occurs due to landscaping decisions that preclude water from reaching the street.  Other issues can include blocked sewers that restrict the flow of water.  This can be caused by root intrusion.  If you notice a lot of water on or around your property, don't wait to correct these issues.  Act as soon as possible before a major storm hits your area.

#2: Consider installing backflow preventers on your pipes.  Water rising outside your home isn't the only way that water can enter your abode.  When the sky opens up and the rain comes down in buckets, the sewer can reach capacity.  When that happens the hydraulic pressure caused is going to find a way out, even if that happens to be by popping manhole covers and surging up pipes into homes and businesses.  Not only can this kind of flooding be as severe as that caused by water seeping under the doors into a home, the waste contained in sewer water can cause a smelly mess that can also transport pathogens such as Hepatitis, Salmonella, and Encephalitis.  The solution to this problem is to have backflow preventers installed in your home.

Image courtesy Pixabay

#3: Do you know your neighborhood's flood zone?  Even if you don't live next to a body of water ,flooding can occur anywhere.  To help you assess your area's risk of flooding, FEMA has prepared color-coded maps of cities and towns that are designed to let you know how likely your neighborhood is to getting flooded.  Since knowledge is power, click on the following link to access the FEMA Flood Map Service Center.

#4: If your neighborhood isn't labeled a flood risk, does that mean you're safe from flooding?  Not exactly.  Any street or property can experience flooding if the rain comes down hard enough and long enough.  As we've all seen on the news lately, wild weather can and does sometimes drop a month's worth of precipitation in a few hours in some places. When this happens, the storm sewers can be overwhelmed and streams can break their banks.  Depending on the severity of the event, this can cause anything from local flooding to entire towns being under several feet of water.

#5: Can sandbags keep flood water out of your home? The good news is sandbags can help slow or stop the intrusion of water into a home, provided they're properly installed and maintained.  They can even be used to slow water trying to back up into your home if placed on drains and in toilets. The bad news is that they're only effective for flooding up to 2-feet high, provided they aren't washed away by fast moving water.  To be effective, you'll need to create a wall of sandbags around your dwelling.  A 1-foot wall requires 5 bags per foot, a 3-foot wall requires 21 bags per foot, and a 4-foot wall takes 36 bags per foot. (You'll also need a pump to keep the water inside the sandbagged area from filling the void.) While you can tape plastic sheeting weighed down by sandbags in front of your door to try to prevent limited flooding from entering your home, this won't stop water from entering an attached garage. It also won't stop flood water from seeping into cracks in walls, foundation or door jambs.

#6: Consider adding a waterproof coating to your home.  Even when flood waters are less than 2-feet high, a home can be considerably damaged.  Since water molecules are small enough to infiltrate even the tiniest of cracks and crevices to gain entry to a home, one solution is to have a waterproof veneer added to exterior walls.  This membrane can keep water at bay that would otherwise find it's way into your home in low-flow flooding. (However, it won't keep water from flowing under doors or window frames.)

Image courtesy Pixabay

#7: What should you do if flooding is imminent? If you're expecting a flood, raise furniture, carpets, electronics, and other valuables off the floor before the water reaches your front door.  Photograph or video your property before flooding starts so you can document any damage caused by rising water before the fact.  If the flood continues to rise, make sure you shut off your home's power at the main breaker if you think the flood could rise high enough to reach it.  (This goes doubly if you plan on evacuating your home.)

#8: Doesn't FEMA provide grants to homeowners whose homes have flooded? FEMA limits grants to $5,000 per home in areas declared a disaster area.  If the flooding in your area is limited to certain neighborhoods you may not qualify for anything from the federal government.  Besides, the average flood insurance claim is around $40,000.

#9: When it comes to to flooding, what does your homeowner's insurance cover? If a pipe bursts only to flood your home, this is a covered hazard under homeowner's insurance.  Likewise, if a tree limb pokes a hole in the roof or a window shatters only to let the rain in, this too is covered.  Sewage backups are excluded in most cases unless you have a rider specifically allowing it.  Water damage caused by rising flood waters is specifically excluded in homeowners policies.

#10: Should you consider obtaining flood insurance? It doesn't take long for flooding to take its toll on any home.  Even a few inches of water inside a home can ruin everything from carpets and appliances to furnishings and walls.  This could lead to extensive repairs, not to mention being a breeding ground for mold.  Since a standard home insurance policy excludes damage done by flood water, it might be prudent to look into acquiring flood insurance.  It covers structural and property damage caused by rising water.  This includes damage done to furnishings, appliances, electrical systems, carpeting, walls, detached garages, and more.  Such policies will even cover sewage backups caused by rising water.  While the average cost of $293,000 of coverage in Florida is $910 per year at present, the alternative is to hope your home never gets flooded.  (Depending on the value of your home, the amount you want insured, and your location, flood insurance can cost as little as $109 per year.)  Getting a quote from your insurance agent costs you absolutely nothing.  

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

1 comment:

  1. Nobody believed Noah until it was too late to do anything about a flood of biblical proportions. Don't wait to protect your property from flooding.


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