Jim Kane, Insurance Journal, July 24, 2019
In the past five years, all 50 states have experienced some type of flooding. Flooding has led to disasters throughout the decades, and this year, it is expected to become unprecedented yet again. Despite a long history of flood-related disasters and predictions for the future, many Americans have little or no insurance coverage to protect their homes and personal property from damage caused by floods.
Climate research firm States at Risk estimates 3.5 million people in Florida are at risk for coastal flooding, yet many homeowners don’t purchase insurance coverage because of a lack of education or because they rely on antiquated mapping systems that provide a false sense of security.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has 1.7 million policies in Florida, more than any other state. Still, only about half of homeowners inside high-risk areas had insurance against flooding before Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sept. 10, 2017.
The Draw of the Coastline
Population growth along the U.S. coastline continues to increase steadily. The 2000 U.S. Census indicated that 48.9 percent of Americans live within 50 miles of a coast, including saltwater tributaries and the Great Lakes. Experts predict that this percentage will continue to rise. The American Community Survey (2011-2015), estimates that 26 percent of Florida residents live in the combined 100-year and 500-year flood plains as indicated by NFIP. The risk of damage from flood water is real and growing in a large percentage of the U.S. and even more so in Florida.
In addition to an increased number of residents living near water, other factors have heightened flood exposure chances.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the two major causes of global sea level rise are thermal expansion caused by warming of the ocean (since water expands as it warms) and increased melting of land-based ice, such as glaciers and ice sheets. Adding to the pressure from the increased water levels are the sinking coastlines. As we draw water from below ground, the land sinks to fill the void.
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