WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Around this time of year, discussion of the weather becomes a serious topic in certain areas of the country, but experts say everyone should be paying attention. Colorado State hurricane forecasters have predicted a slightly above-average hurricane season for this year with 12 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major intense hurricanes that register Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale. A new analysis of weather data shows that the Atlantic seaboard and the Caribbean face 10 to 40 years of stronger and more frequent hurricanes. The combination of more storms and more people and buildings greatly increase the risk of having a storm become a major disaster. According to FEMA, while many prepare for heavy winds, most of the damage from a majority of storms and hurricanes comes from water, and it is not just limited to those areas typically prone to flooding. In recent months, flooding has devastated both Houston and Washington D.C. residents and businesses alike. FEMA reports that Tropical Storm Allison created the largest disaster in Texas history. Within two weeks, nearly $100 million in assistance was approved- making it the most amount of money dispensed in the least amount of time in the agency’s history. “Allison created more inquiries than any storm in the last six years,” said CUNA Mutual Group Corporate Lines Brokerage Manager Lowell Carter. “It had a tremendous impact in southeast Texas and credit unions were calling up to file claims, to find out if they had flood insurance or to increase their coverage.” According to Carter, unfortunately it takes a disaster like Allison to build awareness of the importance of flood insurance. A common misconception is that if flood insurance is not mandatory then it is not necessary. Carter says that is the biggest mistake. “Flooding can occur anywhere in the United States and in fact, FEMA reports that 30% of its claims have been filed outside the flood zone,” said Carter. FEMA reports that there are about 4.3 million flood-insurance policies in effect, which is a small portion of the approximately 107 million housing units in the United States. Of those who have insurance, three million are in flood zones. That means only 1.3 million properties outside high-risk zones carry such insurance. Experts agree that too many people view flood insurance as an investment rather than a preventive measure. So when nothing happens for a few years they don’t feel they are getting their money’s worth and they cancel it. Experts say that the actual ideal situation is not that a flood hits but rather that a claim never has to be filed. Another common misconception involves the 100-year zone. According to Carter, despite common belief, no state is free from the danger of flooding for the next hundred years. A 100-year zone means that a particular area has a 1% chance of flooding every year. “The FEMA maps of flood zones can change constantly,” said Carter. “Because of urban development that new house or office building on the edge of town with lots of open land is great, but in a year if there is lots of development then the water can’t be absorbed by the field anymore so it could then become this high risk flood zone.” Carter advises credit unions to avoid falling prey to the “it could never happen to me” syndrome. Since there is a 30-day waiting period for policies, credit unions should review their disaster protection risk assessment and seriously consider flood insurance before disaster strikes. [email protected]

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