By Roy Reichold
During the early morning hours this past late July, a complex group of thunderstorms struck Missouri along the 1-70 corridor and the I-664 corridor of Illinois. A record downpour of 11 inches of rain fell over the course of eight hours in an axis from Hawk Point, MO, to St Peters, MO, causing multiple swift water rescues and scores of flooded interstates and homes across the St. Louis metropolitan area. Two fatalities were reported: one in St. Louis, where a man drowned in his car near mid-town St. Louis, and another in Hazelwood, where a man drowned attempting to flee his flooded truck. This rainfall event was the most prolific one the St. Louis area has seen since records began in 1874. Consider this: roughly 25% of our normal rainfall fell in about 12 hours.
Flash floods can occur within minutes or hours of excessive rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or a sudden release of water held by an ice jam. Overland flooding, the most common type of flooding event, typically occurs when waterways – such as rivers or streams- overflow their banks because of rainwater, causing flooding in surrounding areas. Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live or work, but especially if you are in low-lying areas, near water, or downstream of a dam. Even small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, or low-lying ground that appears harmless in dry weather can flood. Even if you feel you live in a community with a low risk of flooding, remember that anywhere it rains, it can flood!
Flooding and Insurance
Flooding is a widespread danger that is not limited just to locations that are close to large bodies of water. An area’s eligibility for flood insurance should caution anyone from thinking that “it can’t happen here.” Without this type of coverage, you would have to handle serious damage or destruction to your home or business on your own. How many home or business owners could handle a potentially substantial loss as an out-of-pocket expense?
Flood insurance is required for all U.S. residents with federally backed mortgages in designated high-risk areas. However, there are many people living outside designated threat zones who still face a heightened risk of flooding. Flood risk is the biggest driver of the insurance protection gap in the U.S. Despite the high cost of flood insurance premiums, households with insurance typically fare better after natural disasters than those without.
During a Flood:
- Listen to the radio or TV for information
- Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait!
- Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly.
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving.
Driving Flood Facts
- Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars resulting in loss of control and steering.
- A foot of water will float most vehicles. Two feet of water can carry away most vehicles: including sport utility vehicles and pickups.
- Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection.
- Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of the water is not always obvious. The roadbed may be washed out under the water and you could get stranded or trapped.
After a Flood:
- Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
- Stay on firm ground. Standing water may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Flooding may have caused familiar places to change. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways.
- Stay out of any building that is surrounded by floodwaters.
- Avoid flood waters, as this water may be contaminated by oil, gas, or raw sewage.
As always, when considering purchasing flood insurance, speak to a knowledgeable broker or agent that can navigate you through the many different variables of this type of coverage.
Roy Reichold is a Senior Risk Advisor at Lakenan Agency in St. Louis. For 25 years he has specialized in assessing risk specifically for the hospitality industry across the Midwest.