Portage area floods raise insurance interest

by MIKE SEVER | RECORD-COURIER REPORTER Published:

You don't have to be living next to a river to be flooded out. Just ask folks in Shalersville, Garrettsville and other areas of Portage County hit by the July 10 storms.

Few homeowners in Shalersville's Bolingbrook neighborhood had flood insurance. Some said they were told they couldn't get it, or didn't need it, or that their insurance agent didn't sell it.

Jon Burch of Dave Petrone State Farm Insurance in Ravenna, said he's been selling flood insurance for the past decade or so. With the heavy rains of recent years, he said people's interest has been raised.

Sometimes flood insurance is required by the bank or other lender who holds the mortgage on a property. Standard homeowners insurance does not normally cover flood damage, many people discover after they have damage.

There are not a lot of agents who sell flood insurance. "Most agents shy away from flood insurance because its quite a bit to deal with," Burch said. "It's a strange animal, and a lot of work on the part of the agent."

Rates depend on whether the property is located in a major or minor flood zone. Insurance in a major zone could cost three to five times as much as a minor zone, Burch said. Figuring that out may take a flood survey that costs several hundred dollars.

Homeowners can learn more about the flood insurance program, and find local agents who sell it, at www.floodsmart.gov, the site for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Burch said the policies have limits on what is covered. "Flood insurance is not by any stretch of the imagination a Cadillac policy," he noted.

IN HIGH-FLOOD risk areas, where coverage is mandatory, policies cost more. "In moderate-to-low-risk areas, where the risk of flooding is still very real, customers have lower cost flood insurance options available in the form of the NFIP's Preferred Risk Policies (PRP)," Burch said.

People outside of high-risk areas file over 20 percent of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding.

When it's available, disaster assistance is typically a loan that must be repaid with interest. That might not be attractive for homeowners who are already on a tight budget.

Storms dumped from 2.25 to 4 inches of rain in less than an hour, according to anecdotal reports from residents. Nearly as quickly as it came, the floods passed on through, leaving flooded basements, homes, and vehicles.

Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the U.S., according to information on the National Flood Insurance Program website.

At least two people in the Bolingbrook neighborhood were rescued from flooded homes by boat. There were no fatalities but more than 150 homes were damaged, residents said.

The Portage County office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is still getting reports of flood damage. Officials don't think Portage will meet the threshold to trigger federal aid, but are hopeful to piggyback on Summit County if that county qualifies.

In the meantime, homeowners continue to clean up, throw out and rebuild their homes, hoping the next storm won't bring another flood.

Email: msever@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4154

Facebook: Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Twitter: @MikeSever_RC

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