Hurricane Harvey Flooding Boosts Insurance In Texas
KATY, Texas — Little more than two months before Hurricane Harvey slammed the Gulf Coast of Texas, Alberto Castañeda let his home’s flood insurance lapse. He had never filed a claim on the policy in 10 years and he needed the extra cash to expand his restaurant business.
Houston, in Harris County, suffered the brunt of Hurricane Harvey when it pummeled Texas last August. Hurricane Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches (130 centimeters) of rain on parts of the flood-prone city. The storm killed nearly 70 people, damaged more than 300,000 structures and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the top elected county official, says more than 100,000 flooded homes in Harris County didn’t have flood insurance. According to FEMA, 80 percent of all households affected by Harvey weren’t covered for floods.
An AP analysis found fewer than one in five properties in high-risk flood zones had coverage.
According to FEMA, Texas experienced a more than 18 percent increase in flood insurance policies from July 2017 to the end of May, reversing a long-term declining trend. Harris County, including hardest-hit Houston, saw a near 23 percent jump, while neighboring Fort Bend County, where Castañeda lives, saw a 54 percent increase. The number of properties insured against floods in Houston alone increased by 18 percent, rocketing it past Miami as the city with the most flood insurance policies in the country.
Residents tend to buy policies for a few years after big disasters then cancel because they feel the unused policy is an unnecessary expense, said Howard Kunreuther, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center.
In Louisiana, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the number of flood insurance policies jumped from 380,000 to 490,000 in one year. That fell to 450,000 but then climbed again after catastrophic flooding in Baton Rouge and Lafayette in 2016. Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance James Donelon warns this may not last.
The year after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, flood insurance policies increased by 2 percent in New Jersey and 12.5 percent in New York. But since the end of 2013, policies have dropped by 7.4 percent in New Jersey and 8 percent in New York.
FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program has come under criticism for not doing enough to persuade home and business owners to purchase coverage. Last year, the program announced its “moonshot goal” of doubling by 2022 the number of structures in the U.S. covered by flood insurance from 4 million to 8 million.
FEMA says it has targeted areas identified using high-tech mapping tools that narrowly missed being flooded during Harvey for insurance advertising, resulting in increased coverage in Texas.
Source: The Associated Press
Photo: AP Photo/David J. Phillip