Commissioner Donelon Kicks Off Annual Storm Tour
Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon held his yearly storm season press conference today, urging residents to get ready for Louisiana’s most frequent and costly disasters – hurricanes and floods. The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1, but got a jump start in late May with the early formation of Tropical Storms Alberto and Beryl. Hurricane season ends on November 30.
Colorado State University forecasters predict one of the quietest Atlantic hurricane seasons in 17 years. They are calling for below-normal activity with 13 named storms, 5 of which are expected to become hurricanes, with 2 of those developing into intense hurricanes with a minimum of Category 3 wind speeds of 111 miles per hour or higher. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a near-normal storm season with a 70% chance of 9 to 15 named storms, of which 4 to 8 will become hurricanes, with 1 to 3 of those forming into a major hurricane.
While hurricane experts are predicting a less active storm season, Commissioner Donelon warns that residents should still be prepared. “All it takes is one,” said Commissioner Donelon. “When forecasters say they expect a less severe hurricane season based on weather conditions in the Atlantic Ocean, that still means they predict there will be some level of tropical activity,” the Commissioner noted. “For the past few years, Louisiana has thankfully been spared from a major hurricane, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” Donelon added.
As an example, Commissioner Donelon pointed to the 1992 hurricane season. “There were only six named storms that year, but the first of those was Hurricane Andrew. This August marks the 20th anniversary of that devastating storm that hit Louisiana west of Morgan City as a Category 3 hurricane, causing $500 million in insured damages in our state,” Donelon said. Commissioner Donelon also noted that other Category 3 storms to severely impact Louisiana with property damage and flooding include Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Commissioner Donelon warned that Louisiana residents face an increased risk of flooding due to the state’s close proximity to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico, in addition to dozens of rivers and bayous. “Approximately 35% of all flood insurance claims come from low-risk flood zones but only 31% of Louisiana residents have flood insurance,” Donelon said. “Your insurance producer (agent) can assist you in obtaining a flood insurance policy. Flood insurance is the best insurance buy a property owner can make. Every property owner in Louisiana should have it.”
Standard homeowners insurance does not typically cover flood damage, but flood insurance covers damage that residents would otherwise have to pay for themselves, according to Commissioner Donelon. Flood insurance is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for home and business owners, as well as renters. According to the NFIP, the average cost for a flood insurance policy in Louisiana is under $60 per month, but property owners in low-risk flood zones can purchase flood coverage for as little as $200 a year.
Typically, a flood insurance policy takes 30 days to go into effect after purchase, so don’t wait until a storm is coming to buy flood insurance. Flood insurance policies also offer a maximum coverage of $250,000 for a home or building, and $100,000 for contents. “If you need more coverage, you can purchase excess flood insurance through a private insurance company,” the Commissioner added.
Although storm surge caused by hurricanes and tropical storms can wreak havoc on coastal areas, some of the most damaging floods occur hundreds of miles from the shoreline, days after the storm’s initial landfall. As hurricanes and tropical storms move inland, torrential rains and high winds intensify the risks of flooding by rivers and streams. In fact, rains associated with Hurricane Gustav in 2008 caused extensive flooding in areas as far north as Alexandria and Monroe.
The risk of hurricanes and related flooding includes the entire Gulf Coast and Eastern seaboard. Individuals can learn more about preparing for hurricane season by visiting the Louisiana Department of Insurance website at www.ldi.la.gov or by calling our nationwide toll-free number, 1-800-259-5300. Residents can also visit www.FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419 for more information about flood risk and the benefits of purchasing a flood insurance policy. Another source of great tips on preparing for hurricanes is the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness’ “Get a Game Plan” website found at www.getagameplan.org.
Be Floodsmart – Reduce your Risk
• Know your flood risk. Visit www.FloodSmart.gov to rate your risk and estimate your premiums by entering your address at the “One Step Flood Risk Profile.” Your insurance producer can also assist you with this information.
• Plan for an evacuation. Plan a flood evacuation route, ask someone out of state to be your “family contact” in an emergency, and ensure everyone knows the contact’s address and phone number.
• Move important objects and papers to a safe place. Store your valuables where they will not get damaged in a flood or take them with you when evacuating.
• Conduct a thorough home inventory. Thorough documentation of your belongings will help in the event you must file an insurance claim. For more information, visit www.knowyourstuff.org. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is also urging homeowners to inventory the contents of their home to use in the event of property losses due to flooding or other disasters. One easy way to do this is by downloading the NAIC’s free iPhone or Android application called myHOMEscr.APP.book.
• Build an emergency supply kit. Food, bottled water, first aid supplies, medicines, and a battery-operated radio should be ready to go when you are. Visit www.ready.gov for a disaster supply checklist.
• Don’t forget to purchase a flood insurance policy. Most homeowners insurance does not cover floods and there may be a 30-day wait before a flood policy becomes effective. If you already have a flood policy, remember that your policy needs to be renewed each year.