Flood insurance is available; know your risk | Guest Viewpoint

Brent Butler

The Jefferson County Department of Community Development would like to notify the public that Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) information, including whether a property is in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), the type of hazard that may be expected in a particular area, and the base flood elevations above which structures may be built are available online at msc.fema.gov/portal/home and at the county office (621 Sheridan St., Port Townsend).

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new FIRM and Flood Insurance Study (FIS) became effective in June 2019, requiring adoption of new county floodplain regulations. Consequently, structures not previously in the SFHA and deemed by the FIS as at risk were added. 

If your home is one of these properties or adjacent to the SFHA, the county recommends obtaining flood insurance; your homeowners policy will not cover losses from flooding.

Additionally, SFHA property owners should contact the county for a customer assistance meeting prior to any construction or alterations including interior remodels. These alterations, interior or exterior, may require you to elevate your home 1 foot above the height of flood waters in the event of a 100-year flood if these alterations are considered a substantial improvement.

December’s “king tide” — an unofficial term to describe especially high astronomical tides — caught many businesses, residences, and local governments by surprise for it was accompanied by the seventh lowest low-pressure systems on record.

This increased the tide’s elevation. Homes flooded and some learned then that homeowners policies do not indemnify you from flood damage. 

With sea level rise, the flood risk will only increase. A public meeting regarding sea level rise will be held at
6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21
and is accessible on the Department of Community Development website or esassoc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9Tb0NsyTQ-K_Olxm9duPDw.

Because Jefferson County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you can purchase a separate flood insurance policy. 

Floods are the most common and costly natural disasters in the United States. It’s a common myth that you cannot buy flood insurance if you are located in a high-risk flood area – you can buy it no matter where you live. 

Unless you’ve purchased this flood insurance 30 or more days in advance of the storm, you are exposed to flood loss. 

Homeowners with mortgages must purchase flood insurance as a condition of receiving a federally backed loan. 

However, if you own your home free and clear of a residential mortgage there’s no requirement for flood insurance. In some cases, you may have paid off your mortgage entirely and allowed your flood insurance policy to lapse. Think twice because you would then be exposed to loss in a flood event!

When a storm occurs, be safe. 

Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number-one cause of flood deaths, mostly during flash floods. Currents can be deceptive; 6 inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. If you walk in standing water, use a pole or stick to ensure that the ground is still there. 

Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else.  Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.

Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The number-two flood killer after drowning is electrocution. Electric currents can travel through water. Report downed power lines to Jefferson PUD.

This is a public service message from the County’s Floodplain Administrator.

(Brent Butler is director of the Jefferson County Department of Community Development.)

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