Financial Consequences from Floods in the Midwest - Consumer Justice Foundation

Financial Consequences from Floods in the Midwest

Written by Faith Anderson on May 17, 2011

According to new studies, the elevation of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions may cause higher sea-level temperatures and changes in precipitation. These studies conclude that human-caused changes in climate double the risk of severe floods. Unfortunately, the frequency and intensity of flood disasters has increased to such a severe extent that even prompt relief efforts may fall short. It is imperative that Americans across the country are protected against catastrophic flooding, a task which falls largely on the U.S. government to navigate carefully. Preventative measures must be taken to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the environment and to slow the pace of climate change. Americans residing in flood-prone areas must also be protected by flood insurance, which has presented a significant issue for Congress recently. Failure to make these changes could result in devastating consequences for individuals and families across the United States.

Growing Frequency of Devastating Floods

There are a number of factors which contribute to the damaging emission of greenhouse gases, including deforestation, energy inefficiency, and the disappearance of wetlands across the world and the United States. Wetlands provide a buffer against flooding, while forests can protect against both flooding and landslides. By shifting to a low-carbon economy and promoting energy efficiency, the amount of greenhouse gases being released can be limited, reducing the rate and damaging effects of climate change. In addition, encouraging energy efficiency can reduce our need for more fossil-fuel plants, allowing wind and solar power to become more prevalent. In the meantime, by controlling development and improving warning systems, we may be able to reduce the increasing amount of Americans who suffer the devastating consequences of flooding disasters.

The Dangers of Floods for Americans

Severe weather has caused violent floodwaters to wreak havoc on thousands of Americans in the South and Midwest, as heavy rains and saturated land have threatened to destroy levees and have warranted immediate evacuations. Thousands of people in states like Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas and Missouri were forced to leave their homes and many were killed. Low-lying bridges and roads present a significant danger during flooding, as water levels rise and river banks overflow. Dozens of roads and schools have been closed in these regions of the United States due to flooding, and affected residents have fled to the homes of friends and relatives or sought shelter on higher ground; many equipped only with plastic bags carrying their belongings.

The Financial Toll of Floods in the Midwest

Severe flooding has the potential to cause not only physical and emotional distress, but a significant financial burden for affected individuals and families as well. Standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover damage caused by flooding, which is considered the most common natural disaster in the United States. This type of insurance must be purchased separately through the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The NFIP insures more than 5.5 million homes and businesses against floods, but the program has been in severe debt since 2004 and 2005 when devastating hurricanes swept the country. Unfortunately, Congress’ repeated attempts to restore the government program’s normal function have failed; last year, the program lapsed four times, which prevented new flood insurance policies from being written and complicated thousands of transactions in flood-prone regions of the United States. Legislation to overhaul the NFIP was introduced earlier this year, for the second time since 2009, when the attempt failed. Some of the biggest insurance companies with a stake in the NFIP debate include Travelers, Allstate, Fidelity National Financial, and Hartford Financial Services.

Protect Yourself from Financial Distress Following a Flood

As residents of the Midwest United States have seen in recent months, a massive flood can come without warning and leave horrific destruction in its path. Unfortunately, many Americans have homeowner’s insurance policies which do not include flood insurance, leaving them and their family members vulnerable to life-threatening harm. Regrettably, the government entity which offers flood insurance to Americans living in flood-prone areas faces severe problems and immense debt, exposing even those with flood insurance to unjust harm and severe financial costs. Flooding continues to be the number one cause of damages from natural disasters in the United States. Following a disaster like a flood, Americans deserve to be protected from the financial losses resulting from flooding. As climate changes continue and the risk of severe weather and flooding increases, without the critical support of the government, millions of Americans may face serious financial consequences associated with flooding.

Posted Under: United States
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