Last Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012

Don't Forget To Get Flood Insurance

By Editorial page staff, The Times-Picayune
Original article at

Hurricanes and floods are Louisiana's costliest disasters --which is hardly news for people who have lived through Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav since 2005.

But that is why it's disconcerting that only about one in every three Louisiana households has flood insurance, and that the figure peaked in 2008 and dropped a bit in recent years. As hurricane season gets under way, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is urging homeowners to apply to the National Flood Insurance Program. That's sound advice.

Only 31 percent of Louisiana residents have flood insurance, or slightly more than 492,000 properties. That's a substantially higher number than the 380,000 properties that had insurance when Katrina hit in August 2005. After Katrina and Rita, many Louisianians purchased flood insurance, with the figure peaking at roughly 502,000 policies in 2008, the year Gustav hit.

Since then, the figure has dropped slightly, and that's not a good sign.

Mr. Donelon attributed the declines since 2008 to a "fading recovery" from the 2005 storms and the belief that a major storm is unlikely to hit soon, which is misguided.

It's true that experts are forecasting a relatively less active storm season in 2012, and Louisiana has avoided a direct hit from a major storm in recent years. But that shouldn't lull people into a false sense of security. A forecast for a less active season still means that there will be storms. Indeed, Colorado State University expects 13 named storms this season, with five becoming hurricanes and two reaching at least Category 3 intensity.

"All it takes is one" bad storm, Mr. Donelon said. He's right.

In 1992 there were only six named storms, but one of them was Hurricane Andrew. It devastated South Florida before hitting Louisiana as a Category 3 monster west of Morgan City, causing $500 million in insured damage in our state.

Residents on the north shore or in other areas farther away from the coast shouldn't assume that they're out of danger from flooding. Rains associated with Hurricane Gustav in 2008 caused widespread flooding in parts of Louisiana as far north as Alexandria and Monroe. That helps explain why more than a third of all flood insurance claims nationwide come from areas with low risk from flooding.

Yet many homeowners, especially in low-risk areas, don't know that their standard homeowners insurance doesn't cover flood damage. And according to NFIP figures cited by the Insurance Department, the average cost of flood insurance in our state is less than $60 per month, but the monthly cost in low-risk areas is less than $20. Hazard policies in South Louisiana, by contrast, can cost hundreds of dollars a month.

Residents who lack flood insurance shouldn't wait much longer to apply to the NFIP program. It takes about a month for a typical policy to go into effect, and that means those who wait could cut it close to the start of the most active part of hurricane season in early August.

That makes June a good month to check your coverage and make sure you're protected.