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Should the Twin Ports shop for flood insurance?

DULUTH -- Not many properties are required to carry flood insurance in the Twin Ports. But if storms similar to those of June 14-15 become the new normal, some residents may want to pick up a policy anyway.

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DULUTH - Not many properties are required to carry flood insurance in the Twin Ports. But if storms similar to those of June 14-15 become the new normal, some residents may want to pick up a policy anyway.

"If you live in an area with low or moderate flood risk, you are five times more likely to experience flood than a fire in your home over the next 30 years," according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "For many, a National Flood Insurance Program's flood insurance policy could cost less than $400 per year."

Floods are the No. 1 natural disaster in the U.S., FEMA reports, and most homeowner insurance policies don't automatically cover flood damage. According to a survey by insurance giant Allstate, 44 percent of Americans thought they had flood coverage when only 15 percent actually held a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Since most communities participate in the federal flood insurance program, most residents can buy flood insurance through a local agent. In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources said more than 95 percent of residents are eligible to purchase flood insurance. Those in high-risk areas with federally backed loans are required to carry it.

FEMA said 1 inch of water in a home can cause $25,000 or more in damage, and about a fifth of flood claims occur outside high-risk zones. Is that risk worth the premium?

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"Rates when not in a flood plain are reasonable, whereas if one is in a designated flood plain depending on the coverage wanted it can be very expensive and have high deductibles," said Tim De Smet, an insurance agent in Superior. "The issue is most people choose not to purchase the coverage as they seem to feel the chances are slim. Now we know since the flood of 2012 it has been happening more and more so maybe people will start looking at buying it now."

In Douglas County, residents can look at an interactive map based on a 2012 Flood Insurance Study to assess their risk. That can be found at https://msc.fema.gov/portal/search .

St. Louis and Carlton county residents don't have the same luxury. Most of the floodplain risk mapping was done 25 to 30 years ago, so digital versions of the maps aren't as user-friendly, though they are available to view at the FEMA website.

Duluth's last comprehensive Flood Insurance Study was completed by FEMA in 1979.

FEMA and other agencies are establishing new coastal flooding maps are for St. Louis, Lake, Douglas, Ashland and Bayfield counties.

Brooks Johnson was an enterprise/investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune from 2016 to 2019.
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