Old Man Winter has had a long, successful run through the state this year, even giving Kentucky one last icy blast over the weekend, but the signs of spring are finally beginning to emerge. As that seasonal warming trend starts to settle into the region, strong storms and the potential for floods may soon also be part of weather forecasts again. Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) urges homeowners to evaluate the risk for storm damage on their property this spring and take precautionary steps to lessen or eliminate the destructive effects of flooding and water damage.
According to the National Weather Service, flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather related event. Nationally, nearly 90 lives and an average of $5 billion in property losses are lost annually due to flooding.
Locally, KFB Insurance provides flood coverage through Southern Farm Bureau Insurance and the Federal Government’s flood insurance plan. This coverage protects those in flood plains – areas prone to flooding that are often near rivers and creeks that rise. During the past five years more than 720 Kentucky home- and farm-owners were protected by flood coverage and, as a result, received approximately $11.25 million in claims payouts to repair their property damages. While many of these claims were the result of several storms occurring in different years, occasionally a single, strong storm powers through the state and causes significant damage to a targeted area. Such was the case in south central Kentucky in May 2010. More than 285 claims and $6.25 million were tallied in that year alone, most of which were caused by a single storm.
KFB knows, however, that homes and farms are not the only sources of claims and property loss when it comes to water damage. During the past five years, KFB Insurance also paid out more than $5.3 million on nearly 685 automobile flood-related claims. Approximately $1.3 million and 215 auto claims were handled by KFB Insurance when widespread flooding hit Jefferson County in August 2009 after a single storm.
While KFB is proud to help so many Kentuckians recover after suffering through storm damage, restoring and replacing property is a hefty venture for those without flood insurance. Most home and farm policies do not automatically include coverage for flooding, so property owners must be aware of flood plains in relation to their homes. Home and farm owners should ask their agent about specifically adding flood coverage to their policies to avoid an expensive disaster when storm waters surge.
Even residents living in areas that are not prone to flooding can make small improvements around the home and farm to help prevent surface water damage, which is typically not covered under a standard insurance policy. Listed below are some helpful tips for making a property more water resistant:
Redirect downspouts away from the foundation of the home and extend the tubing to carry the water further away than the typical gutter system allows.
Keep all gutters and downspouts clear of debris that will cause the roof-lining troughs to fill with excess water, overflow and fall instead onto areas close to the foundation.
Reshape landscaping around the foundations to slope downward, directing water away from the house.
Caulk any cracks seen around the foundation that might allow seepage into a basement or crawlspace.
Unfinished basements walls can be sealed internally with specialty applications found at most home improvement stores, but may require continual review and maintenance over time.
Install a sump pump and foundation drain system to force water out of the area in and directly under a house.
Typical homeowner insurance policies do not cover flooding, drain back up or overflow of a sump pump system, however local insurance agents may be able to provide additional coverage for these types of events. Homeowners who have sump pump systems should call their local Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance agent to discuss adding sump pump back-up and drain overflow coverage.
Despite their best efforts, though, homeowners cannot always prevent water damage. For times like those, it is also wise to have copies of important documents and photos of your home, farm and other possessions on file somewhere off site, like a bank safety deposit box, for reference and insurance purposes if personal property is destroyed or washed away.
Of course, flooding can do much more than just damage property – floods occasionally claim lives, too. The National Weather Service points out that just six inches of water can sweep a person off of his or her feet, and that two feet of water is enough to lift and move a car, even an SUV. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else during a flood. If the water covering the road is more than a few inches deep, it is best to find an alternate route – even if it takes longer to reach the destination. What appears to be a short drive through rising waters could end up preventing more than just a person reaching the other side of the road – it could cost a life.
When storms hit Kentucky, it is important to follow news updates on the television or radio and pay attention to the warnings that are issued. As organizations like KFB support Flood Awareness Week (March 16-22) and Severe Weather Awareness Month (March), Kentuckians are also advised to create emergency plans and kits for situations like floods and other natural disasters. To learn more about how to start a plan and what to include in an emergency kit, visit ready.gov.