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Published September 8, 2020

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT

Should I renew flood insurance, even if we never flood?

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

Every year I wonder if I should renew our flood insurance.

Not a drop of floodwater, after all, has ever entered the house. Even when Pearland was deluged with 50 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey, our house didn’t flood.

It’s tempting not to, but I always end up renewing, and Hurricane Laura gave me a Category 4 reminder of why: I renew the policy for the peace of mind that comes from knowing that although I may be inconvenienced by flooding at some point, at least I won’t be devastated financially.

If, like me, you occasionally think of not obtaining or renewing flood insurance because your area never floods, a study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency should give you pause.

According to FEMA, policyholders outside of high-risk flood areas file over 40 percent of all National Flood Insurance Program claims.

Folks in the Houston area know this to be true. Haven’t we all heard flood victims on television say something like “I didn’t think I needed insurance. It has never flooded in this neighborhood before.”

I have, so I renew.

The FEMA study had other interesting tidbits:

For the past four years, hurricanes have caused above-average flooding.

In high-risk areas, there is at least a one-in-four chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage.

Just an inch of water in a home can cause more than $25,000 in damage.

While we are in hurricane season, let me put in a good word for a much-maligned group: Journalists.

We often laugh at television reporters as they hype oncoming storms by standing in ankle-deep water and making it seem like a 100-year flood.

I once heard a veteran reporter on live television breathlessly proclaim that “the ocean water is coming up onto the beach.” He made it sound as if this was an extraordinary event.

Despite some of the antics of the television reporters, let’s remember that reporters and photographers are providing the public with vital information.

And they are doing it while worrying about their own safety, the safety of their families and the fate of their homes.

From Alicia to Rita, I have been involved in covering more hurricanes that I can remember. Having to work apart from my family during a hurricane has created some awkward moments.

It was during Ike or Rita that my wife and I agreed that while I worked at the paper my wife would evacuate our Clear Lake home. She led a three-car caravan carrying her father, mother, sister, niece, daughter and several cats and dogs across the state in search of a place to stay.

The caravan, in vain, tried one hotel after another. I was no help. All I could do was call ahead between breaks looking for reservations for them.

After many miles, they finally landed a place in Johnson City.

She called me the next day and asked how I was doing. It took every bit of integrity I had to confess that the Chronicle, for safety and operational reasons, had booked me into a hotel adjacent to the paper. And it wasn’t a Motel 6.

While my stressed and tired wife was trying to keep everyone happy in Johnson City, I was spending off- hours in a luxury hotel with every possible convenience.

It still is a sore point with her … as it should be. I doubt I can convince her to evacuate next time.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)