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Now is the time to prepare for the spring flood season

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 9:09 PM CST
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(WIFR) - As part of Severe Weather Preparedness Month, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency declares this week as Flood Safety Awareness Week reminding people now is the time to think ahead and be ready for the flood season.

The Stateline is finishing off an unseasonably mild streak, melting all of the snow that February brought us. This also prompts for more people getting flood insurance at this time of the year. But for some, they can’t afford flood insurance and are still rebuilding from the historic floods two years ago. The floods of 2019 destroyed most of Shawn Starry’s neighborhood on the pretzel city’s east side. He is one that is still rebuilding.

Starry says, “We still have no electricity, we haven’t had electricity in two years. We’re still in the process of putting everything together.” His property sits on a FEMA-designated floodway. He wants to move but is still waiting on a grant that would allow the city, with help from the federal government to put an offer on the house.

“What we didn’t realize at the time was when we bought the house, the previous owner didn’t have to disclose to us that we were buying a house in a flood plain,” Starry says. After initial insurance claims were denied, he no longer has flood insurance with that area of Freeport making it hard to be protected by future floods. 23 News spoke with Brian Pinkstaff of State Farm, who says there are plenty of new flood insurance policies being issued at this time of the year. He also discusses how insurance companies and the federal government help determine who is more eligible for flood coverage.

Pinkstaff says, “The NFIP looks at an area and look at how likely it is to flood, how often it floods in the 100 year flood plain. They make determinations upon that and then they grade it by zones as to how likely or unlikely it is to flood.” In a nutshell, filing a claim should be viewed as a last resort, instead with the focus being on reducing flood risks.

“Good maintenance in basements, to make sure those basements are sealed properly and having a great sump pump system even with a back up battery will prevent you from dealing with this,” Pinkstaff says.

Starry always keep a close eye on the upcoming flood season and has preparations down to a science. He says, “We learned our lesson the hard way, we got resources available to us. Money saved up so if we need to go somewhere we can.”

The latest spring flood outlook from the National Weather Service says there is an above average risk for flooding on area rivers as we get into the spring months.

“More than 2.1 million Illinoisans are all too familiar with the devastating effects of flooding, and some communities are still rebuilding following the historic 2019 flood,” said IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “Flood Safety Awareness Week serves as a timely reminder for Illinois residents to prepare for potential spring flooding. Be aware of the flood risks in your community and know the steps to take to keep your family safe in the event of an emergency.”

IEMA says flooding can cause more damage in the United States than any other weather-related event, and is also one of America’s most underrated killers, causing nearly 90 fatalities per year.

Flood preparedness tips include:

  • STAY INFORMED: Learn things you can do now to stay safe from flooding due to large storms. It’s important to stay informed about what is happening with the storm as it approaches and always follow the instructions of local emergency management officials. NOAA Weather Alert Radios provide critical information in a timely manner on storms, hazards and emergencies.
  • TAKE PHOTOS: If you have contents coverage on your flood insurance policy and you haven’t already done so, take photos of clothing, flooring, light fixtures, appliances, furniture, etc.--anything that could be damaged by the flood. Having this can help if you need to file a flood insurance claim later. If you’re not sure what your flood insurance policy covers, call your insurance agent.
  • REDUCE FLOODING RISKS:
    • Make sure your sump pump is working. Then, install a battery-operated backup in case of power failure.
    • Install a water alarm that will let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.
    • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
    • Raise and anchor service equipment and appliances (air conditioning units, water heaters, heat pumps, water meters) onto platforms so they are at least one foot above potential flood waters.
  • PROTECT VALUABLE DOCUMENTS: Store copies of irreplaceable documents (such as birth certificates, passports, insurance documents, deeds, etc.) in a safe, dry place. It can also be a good idea to photograph these documents and store the images in a safe place, too.
  • PREPARE YOUR FAMILY: Develop a family emergency plan and review it with all family members. Visit Ready.Illinois.gov for step by step instructions on how to prepare for, survive and rebuild after any storm or emergency.
  • BE READY TO EVACUATE: Plan and practice a flood evacuation route. Ask someone out of state to be your “family contact” in an emergency, and make sure everyone knows the contact’s address and phone number.
  • PLAN FOR PETS AND ANIMALS: Make a pet and animal plan. Many shelters do not allow pets. Make plans now on what to do with your pets if you are required to evacuate your residence.
  • CHECK YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE: A flood insurance policy could protect you from the devastating expenses caused by flooding. Standard homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damage. A flood policy takes 30 days to go into effect from application to payment, so taking action before a storm is recommended. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) protects policyholders financially even if they live in an area that did not qualify for federal disaster assistance. In fact, statistics show, insured survivors are able to recover quicker and more fully from a flood or other catastrophic event than their uninsured neighbors.

IEMA and local law enforcement also encourage you to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”, which they say, is intended to remind you not to drive on a flooded road. IEMA goes on to say that most flood-related fatalities involve people trying to drive through a flooded road.

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