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Rep. Ben Lien, Published March 16 2013

Letter: Prepare for flood this year

Is there anyone who isn’t ready to close the book on winter and head into spring? But we should remember that warmer temperatures bring melting snow. And in the Red River Valley that almost always means spring flooding.

Before jumping into the waders, homeowners should take time to determine if they may need flood insurance coverage. Flood damage is not covered under a standard homeowner’s policy. In recent history, our community bore the brunt of severe flooding, and it’s imperative that homeowners act now so as not to be caught off guard.

The snow that fell on the Fargo-Moorhead area in the past month has raised to 79 percent the risk of the Red River topping major flood stage of 30 feet. The clock could be ticking.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has provided some important and useful information for consumers considering purchasing flood insurance.

Standard insurance policy does not cover flood damage. Flood insurance is a special policy that is backed by the National Flood Insurance Program. Most Minnesota communities participate. To find out if your community participates in the program, visit the FEMA website or check with your insurance company.

Homeowners should check area floodplain maps to see if their property falls on a 100-year floodplain, a 500-year floodplain or neither. But floodplains are not the only areas at risk for flooding. Twenty to 25 percent of all Minnesota flood claims come from outside areas designated as high risk.

Homeowners don’t have to live in a floodplain to purchase flood insurance; anyone can buy it if their community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.

If you believe you may find yourself in a situation where you’d need flood insurance, buy it. When it comes to flooding, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And remember flood insurance becomes effective 30 days after it is purchased, so don’t wait until the last minute. Floods don’t honor a 30-day waiting period.

In the majority of floods, uninsured victims may have to use their own resources to rebuild or recover. Unless the president declares a flood a disaster, disaster assistance is unavailable. Less than 50 percent of all floods are declared disasters, and disaster assistance is typically offered in the form of loans, which must be paid back.

The average flood insurance premium is $400 per year depending on where you live and the coverage you choose. In low- to moderate-risk areas, coverage can be purchased for just over $100. Homeowners can buy up to $250,000 worth of structural coverage; businesses, $500,000. There is separate coverage for contents: up to $100,000 for residential and $500,000 for nonresidential, so renters can purchase flood insurance, too.

Floods are more than inconveniences. They can disrupt lives and cause bankruptcies. Homeowners need to arm themselves with the facts and protect themselves.

Lien, DFL-Moorhead, represents District 4A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.