The Waters are Stacked Against Us

For centuries devastating flood events have affected communities throughout the United States and These events are not new, nor less prevalent.  It is important to note, the causes of these floods have all been very similar, an oversaturation of the ground causing nearby bodies of water to overflow into the nearby communities destroying land, property, and lives.

On April 15, 1927 (a Good Friday), 15 inches of rain fell in New Orleans in just over 18 hours.  This large amount of rain quickly compromised the levees which gave way from the force of the water.  Floodwaters reached over 27,000 square miles, affecting more than 630,000 people and 10 states along the river.  It was not until August of the same year; the water began to recede nearly 4 months later.  After this flood, the government enacted the Flood Control Act of 1928 which created the longest system of levees ever built.

It was during this time, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built at Lake Okeechobee, FL.  The dam was built following the great hurricane of 1928 after 3,000 people were killed when storm surge lifted the waters of Lake Okeechobee over a 6-foot barrier made from muck and sand. As Florida residents we have heard for years the conditions of the dikes and dams at Lake Okeechobee are deteriorating, leaving us in the path of its deadly waters.

Here are 6 things you should know about the Herbert Hoover Dike:

  • Lake Okeechobee derives its names from the Seminole word for "big water"
  • The dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee is estimated to be holding back trillions of gallons of water
  • The dike is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers
  • The ideal lake level is 12.5 feet - 15.5 feet*
  • Since 2006 state engineers have warned the dike is prone to leaks
  • In 2005 Hurricane Wilma washed away entire portions of the dike.**

As our climate continues to change, scientists have estimated sea levels are rising at an alarming rate of 1 inch per decade.  The images of flooded streets in South Beach have become a familiar news story during the rainy summer months in Florida.  In addition, and as seen these past few years, hurricanes are becoming stronger and more intense.

Living in the Florida Peninsula makes us vulnerable from every direction, thus, flood insurance is a necessity to every homeowner in our state.  Mortgage companies require this additional coverage ONLY when the home is located in a flood zone as determined by the flood maps created by FEMA.  Those homeowners lucky enough to have paid off their homes or live outside of the so-called "flood zone" are not required to purchase this coverage.  However, are any residents in the State of Florida really outside of a "flood zone"?  Arguably the answer to this question is NO.

Surrounded by water on all sides, exposed to rising sea levels and stronger tropical systems, and a dike located in the center of the state in need of repair, one could surmise homes throughout Florida will likely experience a flood at some point.  Yet, many homeowners waive the option to add this to their insurance portfolio.

Other things to consider:

  • The average cost of flood insurance is $1.59/day
  • 25% of flood claims are made from homeowners outside a flood zone
  • Hurricane damage is often caused by a combination of flood and wind
  • A typical homeowners insurance policy does NOT cover flood damage

Adding flood coverage is simple. Ask your agent what flood products are right for your insurance needs.  Edison Insurance Company offers a flood endorsement for qualifying homes at a lower rate than the NFIP and with no waiting period.  There are only 2 months left before the start of hurricane season. Call your agent today.

*During Hurricane Irma in 2017, water levels at Lake Okeechobee surpassed 17ft further straining the walls of the dike.

** You can monitor the water levels at Lake Okeechobee by visiting the US Army Corps of Engineers website.

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