Sunday, January 5, 2014

Flood Insurance (part deux)

Not too many years ago we had a flood in our home up in New Hampshire. Let me tell you a little about the event, and what a mess it made.

We lived on a lake that was about a mile long and half a mile wide, and because we were about 12 feet above the lake level--and the lake had a dam which purged water into a river--FEMA determined that flood insurance was not required. Well, to be clear, it had been required a few years earlier, but then the government cartographers redrew the flood maps and we were relived of having to carry flood insurance because all the “experts” were sure and 99.9% certain that no flood would ever bother us.

We bought that house right around the turn of the century, and got friendly with the neighbors during the first few months we were there. Neighbors are always knowledgeable of the history of the area and they were quick to tell us there had been a flood 10 years back and our house had been in the midst of the deepest waters. But the owners at that time had installed an earthen dam along the lake side of the house, and it was determined by those who knew this stuff, that the dam would most certainly keep out any future high water. The house had come with a flood insurance policy, which was required if we had a mortgage—which we did.

About three years into our owning the house, the insurance company called and said the new FEMA maps were just released, and they indicated we were no longer in a flood zone, (really?) and therefore flood insurance was no longer needed. We told them that there had been a flood once, but that didn’t matter they said. And secondly, they said, flood insurance, while cheap at that time, didn’t cover much anyway. So we cancelled the policy.

I think that was the same year we had our next 100-year flood. The earthen dam worked fine during the runoff from the snow melt and the 30 days of spring rains we had that year, until the county raised the dam to prevent more water from going into the river—as homes were being flooded by the river, downstream. That brought the water over the top of our dam. The fire department quickly responded and brought hundreds of sand bags, and we raised the top of dam maybe 8-10 inches with all the bags, but the water found a way in, and washed out our dam.

The house was an embankment ranch, meaning that it was a ranch style home on the street level, but one side of the lower level was set into the earth, the other side contained a finished playroom with glass sliders out to the lake. The lower level was carpeted, and furnished and had a Steinway piano and an antique melodeon, plus the usual collection of stereo equipment and speakers and TV and the rest, Plus there was a work-shop with a nice collection of power tools, and then a storage room with “good stuff”, family photos, yearbooks, skis and boots and things I was saving, not to mention the oil furnace, central A/C and electric panel.

The fire department came as soon as they heard the dam was breached and pulled the electric meter of the side of the house. We could no longer stay there. The water began receding about that same time and FEMA knocked at our door. Our county had been declared an emergency and government aid was there. Even though we didn’t have flood insurance, they handed us a check for a grant of $2,000 to begin the clean up, and documentation for an SBA loan to fix the whole lower level. They also gave us a plan for a concrete “flood wall” to build out front—and the one new requirement to make all this generosity come to reality: flood insurance.

For more information on floods, see: More on my flood and flood insurance next time. Dane Hahn is a real estate professional with Sarasota Realty Associates in Venice, he can be reached at 941-681-0312, or at See him on the web at -- Dane Hahn

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