Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Acting Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield, reflecting on the impacts of Hurricane Agnes 50 years ago, today urged property owners to prepare for hurricane season by considering flood insurance to protect their homes, businesses, and possessions. For many Pennsylvanians, extreme weather, including flooding and damages caused by hurricanes and severe thunderstorms, can be a common occurrence throughout the summer months and into the fall.
In 1972, the effects of Hurricane Agnes were widespread, dramatically impacting homes, businesses and lives from the Caribbean to Canada. At the time, it was the costliest hurricane to hit the United States, causing an estimated $2.1 billion in damages. In addition to the structural damages, the hurricane caused 128 deaths, 50 in the commonwealth alone; the most from any other state. Although much of the east coast was affected, Pennsylvania was impacted the most, with more than 3,000 businesses and 68,000 homes destroyed. Consequently, approximately 220,000 people were left without homes and 150 bridges were either impassable or destroyed.
"Pennsylvania has experienced its share of historic flooding. Just last summer, strong storms, tornadoes, and flooding in the Commonwealth caused significant damages and cleanup, as well as hardship and stress for the property owners left to deal with the aftermath," said Acting Commissioner Humphreys. "We want to urge you now to take the time to review your coverage, prepare for potential hazards, and mitigate the risk to your family and home. Looking to the past to prepare for the future, homeowners should consider purchasing added flood insurance, as standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage."
"There are far too few homes insured for flood in the Commonwealth. In a state with nearly 3.1 million insured homes, fewer than 50,000 are covered for flood," Humphreys continued. "After every storm that includes an element of flooding, we hear devastating stories from residents that thought they were covered for flood through their homeowners' insurance policy. That is generally not the case. We strongly encourage insurance agents to highlight the availability of flood coverage when meeting with clients to discuss new or renewal coverage. And because where it rains, it can flood, we also urge homeowners and renters to ask their insurance agents and insurance companies about flood coverage."
Flood insurance is available through both the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the rapidly growing private market, regardless of whether you live in a designated flood zone. Homeowners who live in federally designated Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are likely required to have flood insurance by their mortgage lenders. Individuals looking to purchase new homes and properties should research before buying to determine if the area has had any previous flooding.
"Flood insurance is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from the financial devastation that flooding can bring," said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. "Knowing that you have that financial protection can bring a degree of peace of mind during your recovery from flooding, which can happen anywhere, whether or not there's a history of flooding in your neighborhood."
Consumers should be aware that flood insurance policies are not active immediately. In most scenarios, there is a 30-day waiting period before policies are active; this prevents individuals from purchasing flood insurance solely when a storm is headed in the direction of their property.
In the event of a hurricane or storm that causes flooding and damages, the Insurance Department has resources that can help guide the property owner through filing insurance claims, and tips to avoid repair scams.
The After the Storm brochure, found online at insurance.pa.gov, includes tips such as:
- Contact the insurance company as soon as possible after the storm.
- Save all receipts.
- Take photographs or video before cleaning or making repairs.
- After documenting damage, make repairs needed to prevent further damage or to live in the home, but don't make permanent repairs before insurance company inspects the damage and approves the repairs.
- If possible, determine what it will cost to repair the property before meeting with an insurance company representative who will assess the damage. If there is a disagreement on the offer made to repair the property, individuals should be prepared to negotiate.
More information on the NFIP and private flood insurance is available on the Insurance Department's one-stop Flood Insurance page, and more information on guidance following a severe weather event can be found on the Department's After the Storm and Disaster Recovery resources pages. Consumers with questions or wishing to file a complaint can contact the Insurance Department's Consumer Services Bureau, or by calling 1-877-881-6388.