EDITORIAL: Everyone needs flood insurance

York Dispatch

York County has seen an unprecedented amount of rainfall this year.

Throughout the summer, rain was a constant in the forecast. One week in July saw a foot of water pour onto some areas of the county.

And then came Aug. 31, when a sudden storm dropped up to 9 inches of rain on some areas in a matter of hours.

York County residents have dealt with flooded roads, flooded basements, leaking roofs, water seeping in through walls and foundations. Roads and bridges have been destroyed, houses washed off their foundations, cars swept away.

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And yet, so many property owners in York County don't have flood insurance.

There's a misconception that only properties in a Special Flood Hazard Area are eligible for flood insurance.

That's not true.

Special Flood Hazard Areas are sites that the Federal Emergency Management Agency predicts have a 1 percent chance of a major flood in any given year, according to Wade Gobrecht, assistant director of the York County Planning Commission. Those areas are also known as 100-year floodplains.

But those aren't the only areas that flood — obviously.

In fact, 20 percent of the claims through the National Flood Insurance Program are for properties in minimal hazard zones, also known as preferred zones, according to FEMA. 

In York County, most of the areas hit hardest by flooding this year have been in those preferred zones. And so, many of those property owners didn't know they needed or were even eligible for flood insurance.

Roy O. Livergood Jr., a senior planner with the planning commission, said that over the summer, a lot of people in York County experienced flooding in their basement for the first time, due in large part to the saturated groundwater table.

"I’m on top of a hill, but if there’s enough rain in the ground to become saturated, that water is looking for a void," he said of his own home. "If there’s any way (for water) to get into my cellar, I can still flood."

FEMA has to look only at past and current conditions when drawing up flood plain maps, but property owners also need to look at future conditions.

A report out this week from the U.N. says that, without fast actions to keep global warming to 0.9 degrees above the current level, we will continue to see more heat waves, droughts and downpours, among other life-changing and life-threatening events.

Those downpours are what York County has seen this year. This year, instead of an anomaly, could become the new normal.

And this year, York County has seen flooding everywhere.

For Stephanie Burns, of Chanceford Township, the call to get flood insurance came too late. 

The home Burns and her family have lived in for 10 years was devastated by flooding on Aug. 31. Their driveway was washed away, water seeped through the walls and foundation, and mold is growing inside the house.

But she was told when they bought the house that they weren't eligible for flood insurance, so they didn't have it. And now they're on the verge of losing the house, and they can't afford to repair it. 

Stephanie Burns of Lower Chanceford Township, calls daily to see if a disaster declaration has been issued in the wake of severe flooding across York County. The Burns family lost access to their home when their driveway was washed out by flooding and have been dealing with mold issues in their home. John A. Pavoncello photo

Now is the time to look ahead and get the flood insurance so it will be there if you need it. 

If you own property, talk to your insurance agent. If your insurance won't cover floods, talk to a company that specializes in flood insurance, such as Franklin Flood LLC, a national flood insurance brokerage firm based in Exton, Chester County.

York County will continue to see wet and wetter weather. Don't wait until it's too late to make sure you are protected.