Buying flood insurance is a smart precaution

October 1, 2018

Buying flood insurance now, after the so-called 1,000-year flood already has occurred, might feel akin to shutting the barn door after the horse escapes.

However, as a federal official pointed out last week, floods aren’t that unusual in Santa Fe. Being prepared — which includes having the right insurance — is something homeowners should consider.

Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plain management and insurance specialist John Miles said the July flooding reminded all property owners of their danger. Any property in a special hazard flood area, he said, has a 26 percent chance of being flooded over the life of a 30-year mortgage.

Even without that long-term risk, the reality of flash floods during monsoon rains are part of life in our high-desert city; considering that weather events are growing more extreme because of long-term climate change, it makes sense to take precautions.

Miles encouraged homeowners to check out FEMA flood hazard maps to weigh the dangers for their properties. We think that’s sound advice. People near high-risk areas — locally, those are the Santa Fe River, the Arroyo Hondo and Arroyo de los Chamisos — can use the maps to help assess their choices. Look at a FEMA flood hazard map, available at www.floodsmart.com, or by going to the FEMA Flood Map Service Center.

Currently, the National Flood Insurance Program covers some 478 policyholders in Santa Fe — and despite the widespread flooding last summer, there have been few claims seeking compensation for damage. Many people who suffered losses, of course, did not have flood insurance. They are either not fixing damage because of lack of funds, trying to obtain loans or spending down their savings accounts.

With extreme weather more common, property owners must do all they can to prepare for worst-case scenarios rather than hoping for the best. Sometimes preparation is physical, such as setting out sand bags. But it also can mean buying the right kinds of insurance, preparing for flooding that we all hope never happens — at least not for another thousand years or so. This summer served as a warning, one we ignore at our peril.

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