We've all seen the recent news about flooding sweeping across the United States. Of course, there are some areas where we'd expect to see flooding. While the commonness of flooding doesn't make the death, destruction, and overall carnage that it leaves behind any less saddening, the fact remains that there are some parts of the country where flooding has always been a part of life. However, there are other parts of the United States where flooding is extremely rare. A concerning weather trend over the last few years is that some areas are starting to suffer heavy flood damage as never before.
According to Floodlist.com, a website that tracks and reports every major flooding event around the globe, there have been no less than 24 separate flooding events that took place in the United States since August of 2021. Some of those floods took place in areas where you may expect. For instance, Floodlist reported coastal areas that received flood damage from tropical storms and hurricanes. However, some areas farther inland made the list for the very first time.
For example, you may have seen the news about the massive flooding that ravaged eastern Kentucky. With 38 dead, it's among the worst floods ever seen in the area. Eastern Kentucky is hardly known for its flooding, but due to heavy rainfall, flash floods and overflowing creeks and streams, many lives and homes have been lost.
In addition to the rural Appalachian communities of eastern Kentucky that have been virtually washed off the map, you may be surprised to hear that a recent flash flood hit Death Valley National Park, leaving hundreds stranded. Death Valley got its name because rainfall is so minimal in the area. However, a recent storm saw nearly a year's worth of rain fall in only three hours! According to experts, 1.46 inches of rain fell in a three-hour span. The annual record for rainfall in Death Valley is 1.47 inches. Another 1/100 of an inch, and Death Valley would have matched its own annual record in a single storm.
There's no doubt that the risk for flooding is expanding from areas we've always expected it to those where flooding has up to now been almost completely unknown. What does that mean for homeowners? Well, it means that flood insurance premiums are going to go up, and mortgage companies will start requiring flood insurance on ZIP codes where it wasn't required in the past. Additionally, it means that more homeowners will want to take measures to protect their properties from the damage caused by rising waters and unpredictable weather.
How to Check Your Flood Risk: Reading FEMA Flood Maps
Whether you already own a home, are looking for a new place to live, or are a real estate investor, it's a good idea to have as much information as possible about a property. In most states, realtors must provide a 100-year FEMA flood map to potential buyers, but that information is not just available to realtors. You can go to the FEMA website and check the flood status of any property in the US. You can also check your flood risk at RiskFactor.com.
It's a good idea to at least understand how to read these FEMA maps. FEMA's flood maps, also referred to as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, show areas considered high-risk, moderate-risk, and low-risk for flooding. These are the same maps that insurance companies use to determine how much flood insurance you will be required to carry on a property, if you're required to carry any at all.
Areas that are considered "special" are high-risk areas. These areas are typically marked with an A or a V on the FEMA map. Areas considered moderate or low risk are designated with a B, C, X, or a shaded X. Finally, some areas are considered "possible but undeterminable" regarding flood risk. These areas are marked with a D.
Any area that has at least a 1% chance of flooding each year is considered a high-risk area. Those areas have a 25% chance of flooding during the life of a 30-year mortgage, which is why most lending institutions require those addresses to carry flood insurance. It's important that you understand how to use this information to evaluate the home you're currently living in or any properties you may be interested in buying.
What Do the Numbers Say?
Sources such as FEMA flood maps and Environmental Protection Agency studies are available in abundance online. While we obviously don't have time to look into every study these two entities have published, we can look at the data they've produced to determine one fact: flood risk is increasing across the country.
While many people may debate the causes for the uptick in flooding that we've seen across the nation, the fact remains that floods are more common today than they were as recently as the 1950s. In fact, the EPA reports that many areas are five times more likely to flood today than they were in the 50s. With the risk of flooding increasing, it's more important than ever to have a plan in place to protect yourself, your family, and your home.
There is no denying that the numbers indicate that flooding is becoming more problematic than it has been in the past. The same numbers indicate that the problem isn't going to go away. Instead, it's only going to get worse.
Just because an area wasn't on the FEMA flood map a few years ago doesn't mean it isn't there now. The risk for flooding is expanding every year, as is evidenced by the areas that we discussed earlier suddenly becoming home to devastating floods. Even if you have lived in the same place for decades and have never experienced a flood, you may still be at risk of flooding. The flood risk is expanding, meaning that area that wasn't in the flood plane five years ago may be at risk today.
What Can You Do About Flooding?
The most crucial part of flood preparation is protecting yourself and your family from injury or death during a flood. Water can rise rapidly and can move even faster. One of the reasons that floods are so devastating is the speed at which water levels rise. Whether you live in an area that has recently experienced flooding or you've never seen high water around your home, you must create an emergency preparedness plan with your family. Doing so could be the difference in life and death.
Once you've taken steps to ensure that you and your loved ones are prepared to face a flood, you should also make sure you have financial protection against these catastrophic events. Flood insurance premiums will vary from provider to provider, so spend some time shopping around. It's also important to understand that your premiums will depend on how FEMA classifies your property. You can go through the process of having your flood classification changed on the FEMA website, so if you are sure that your property should be considered low risk, but FEMA has it as high risk, that's certainly something that is worth checking.
Finally, you can protect your home by investing in certain items that can mitigate the risk of flood damage. You probably won't be able to build a floodwall around your home, but there are certain steps that you can take to minimize the damage that your home suffers. For instance, many homeowners have sump pumps in the basement or crawl space of their homes. These devices can remove water in these low-lying areas of the home. You can also install waterproof drywall, such as the type produced by EnduraFlood. While waterproof drywall doesn't keep water out of your home, it does resist water damage, saving you time and money once the waters have receded and you're ready to start the cleanup process.