Last week's heavy rains that created massive flooding in other parts of the state just happened to occur as Georgia is revamping its flood insurance maps. They should give everyone pause for rethinking both flood insurance and the potential for flood damage.
Typically, those who buy flood insurance live near lakes, rivers or low-lying areas prone to flooding, because the normal homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover water damage created by rain. We know what the most flood-prone areas are historically, but sometimes development, exceedingly heavy rain or a combination of the two causes flooding where flooding has never occurred before.
Large-scale developments are generally required to manage stormwater runoff, but they’re required to meet a certain standard of inches per hour of rainfall. On the rare occasions when rainfall exceeds that threshold, the potential for flooding of adjacent property increases. In addition, massive amounts of rainfall — 20 inches fell in some areas — is likely to tax the drainage capabilities of both nature and mankind.
Development upstream can change the nature of flooding downstream in ways that are difficult to predict. A 500-lot subdivision in what was once woodlands will shed an awful lot of water during a significant rain, possibly creating flooding downstream in areas not previously flood-prone. A stopped up or overwhelmed storm sewer system can create localized flooding that, while short-term, can cause extensive damage that won’t be covered by a homeowner’s policy.
Twenty inches of rain in a few days is exceptionally unusual (3.5 inches in an hour is the 100-year rain event for this area and eight inches over 24 hours is the 24-hour 100-year event), but that’s of little comfort to those whose homes were flooded and who had no flood insurance. It’s a wake-up call to all consumers to take a closer look at the potential for flooding and review their insurance coverage, keeping in mind that homeowner’s policies do not cover damage from flooding caused by rain. At the very least, homeowners need to realize before it happens that flood damage is not covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy.