5 On Your Side

Many Question Need For Flood Insurance After Katrina

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The images of New Orleans in the wake of flooding from Hurricane Katrina are ingrained in many people's minds -- people escaped floodwaters with just the clothes on their backs.

North Carolina saw similar flooding in 1999 as a result of Hurricane Floyd, where water wiped out entire neighborhoods. Experts later realized 80 percent of those flooded homes and businesses were in areas not designated as flood zones.

With Katrina still on the minds of many and with Ophelia slowly churning on the state coast, insurance agents say they are getting a lot of calls from people asking if they need flood insurance.

The thing is, you do not have to live near the ocean or on a stream for your house to flood. Many people found that out with Hurricane Floyd.

In the years since Floyd, the state has started a re-mapping program. The re-drawn maps show that people who did not need flood insurance before may need it now.

So far, the eastern part of the state and part of the Triangle are complete. Now, people in the newly mapped areas can look up their address and assess their flood risk.

Floodplain Mapping Program Director John Dorman says people all over the state need to pay attention to their risk.

"All across North Carolina you have flood plains. You have flood hazards in the mountains, in the Piedmont, in highly developed areas because there's more impervious surfaces," Dorman said. "The water runs off quicker. The depth of the water is larger. Many of the culverts and pipes can't handle the water as much so the flood plain spreads out."

That is where flood insurance may come in, especially since, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a fourth of all flood claims happen in low-to-moderate risk areas.

"If it only happens one time, that's all it takes," said Vince Sorgi, of the North Carolina Association of Independent Insurance Agents.

Sorgi believes when you compares the cost of flood insurance with the cost of flood repairs, it is worth it. For example, to cover a $200,000 home in a low-risk area, as well as what is inside the home, can cost roughly $300 per year.

"When you're considering protecting your life's investment, I think it's a small price to pay," Sorgi said.

And it is a simple step to take, just in case. So, how do you assess your flood risk?

The best way may be to look at the new state flood maps online as well as FEMA's FloodSmart Web site. Some people may not find the state site as user-friendly as the FEMA site. The FEMA site, however, may not be as up-to-date. Five On Your Side's advice: use the two sites together.

To access the North Carolina flood maps, go to www.ncfloodmaps.com. Then, click on "Digital Flood Maps." Once there, click on the "Addres Locator Tool."

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