Many impacted by floods don’t have proper insurance to cover damages


Flooding is the most commonly occurring natural disaster in the United States but most people in Tennessee don’t have adequate insurance to protect their homes, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

Many in the Tri-Cities are confronting this reality after record-breaking rainfall caused flash flooding over the weekend.

Edmond Barner, 81, has owned two units on Todd Drive in Johnson City since 1994 and he said he’s never seen flooding so severe. He’s expecting major damages to the property that was still unreachable Tuesday due to high waters. 

“I don’t have flood insurance,” said Barner, “It was I think 7 or 800 dollars a year with FEMA and this only happens once in a lifetime probably.” 

Keith Ivens was one of the lucky ones in the neighborhood. He also doesn’t have flood insurance but his home, on the elevated side of Todd Drive, didn’t flood. 

“We didn’t really didn’t think we would need it,” said Ivens. 

Ivens and Barner aren’t alone. “I think it’s fair to say that most Tennesseans don’t have flood insurance,” said Kevin Walters, Spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance. 

The department has been urging Tennesseans to change that in light of recent flooding. 

Walters said homeowners who aren’t living within floodplains should also consider purchasing coverage through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Policy. 

That’s because nearly 20 percent of flood claims come from properties not in high-risk flood zones, according to FEMA. 

“If it can rain, it can flood and one inch of water in a home can equal 25 thousand dollars worth of damage,” said Walters. 

Todd Drive, for example, is not in a flood plain. Walters said people living in that neighborhood can still get a flood insurance policy. 

He said there are only a few localities in Tennessee that don’t have access to FEMA’s coverage. He said those residents can seek private avenues for flood insurance. 

But Watauga Insurance, Inc. CEO Ed Gibbons said many people don’t buy flood insurance because it’s too expensive, though he said rates often vary depending on risk level. 

Otherwise, Gibbons said many people aren’t informed that most homeowners and renters insurance policies don’t cover external flooding. 

“You have to go outside the normal home owners policy to get flood insurance. So it’s a separate policy,” said Gibbons. 

Gibbons said, if someone is interested in getting flood insurance, it’s not a good idea to wait until a storm is approaching. He said most policies take thirty days to go into effect. 

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