Rainy season is in a month, are you ready with flood insurance?

Oct 3, 2022, 1:31 PM | Updated: 5:15 pm

Flood Insurance la nina...

With a third straight La Niña event coming, the odds favor having one or more significant flooding events in Western Washington. (AP Image)

(AP Image)

If you live in a flood-prone area and do not already have flood insurance, now is the time to get it. Homeowner and commercial insurance policies typically do not cover flood damage.

Flood insurance is federally supported by congressionally backed funding from the National Flood Insurance Program. NFIP policies go into effect 30 days after the policy is written; meaning now is the time to obtain that flood insurance policy before flood season arrives.

After an all-time record dry summer, it may be hard to believe that the Western Washington flood season is just around the corner. The flood season usually arrives starting in late October and runs into March. November has the most frequent flooding events.

The Washington State Insurance Commissioner has a handy website focused on how to obtain insurance. Flood insurance is also widely available through floodsmart.gov.

Flooded mineshaft to partially close WB I-90 near Issaquah

Third straight La Niña means a soggy winter

With a third straight La Niña event coming, the odds favor having one or more significant flooding events in Western Washington. During last winter’s La Niña, a soggy atmospheric river – a.k.a.  pineapple express – drenched Whatcom and Skagit counties resulting in significant flooding. Many homes and businesses were flooded and still have not fully recovered.

La Niña is when sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific Ocean tropical waters – waters west of Peru – are cooler than normal. In contrast, waters in the Western Pacific are warmer than average. These tropical water conditions cause the North Pacific storm track to create more precipitation in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. La Niña winters tend to be cooler and wetter than average, and the past two winters have been just that.

FEMA insurance overhaul

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manages the National Flood Insurance Program. In recent years, FEMA overhauled the program’s insurance pricing system intended to have policy premiums more accurately reflect the flood risk of any property. For some, premiums declined, while for others they rose.

In reviewing federal records, about 9% of Americans nationwide dropped their flood insurance in the past year. This change comes at a time when our warming planet is able to hold about 10% more moisture than at the start of the industrial age. This results in heavier rain totals and more floods, not only across the nation but around the world.

Federal law requires homeowners and businesses with federally backed mortgages in high-risk flood-prone areas to purchase insurance. However, many choose not to do so or drop their policy after a few years, which has been the trend in recent years.

With fewer policyholders, the insurance pool shrinks, raising rates for those who do have insurance. If more had policies, the insurance pool would rise and result in lower premiums for all.

Flood insurance has multiple benefits

It is in everyone’s best interest to have flood insurance if living or having a business in a flood-prone area. Those without coverage must often rely on FEMA disaster relief funds that typically are only several thousand dollars. Those who were flooded in Skagit and Whatcom counties last November that did not have insurance were hit hard financially. They only received several thousand dollars of flood damage relief; nowhere close to what was needed to recover.

Those with insurance were able to get up to a half million dollars for structural damage, and another half million for the contents inside their home. Even small businesses may need supplemental coverage.

So if you live in a flood-prone area and do not already have flood insurance, now is the time to obtain an insurance policy. The North Sound region got wet and suffered significant flooding last November. Snohomish, King, Pierce, and other Western Washington counties could receive one or more similar events during this fall and winter’s flood season.

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Rainy season is in a month, are you ready with flood insurance?