Batten the hatches.
Revived legislation to remove some flood damage-prone homes from federal assistance rolls has Bush administration support and forecasters are predicting an above average storm season this year.
With the chance of less disaster assistance and a greater numbers of storms, home owners in flood prone areas would do well to do what they can to protect their homes from the ravages of rising waters.
In any political or meteorological environment, flood damage mitigation efforts are always the right thing to do.
HR 1428, a bill called "Two Floods and You're Out of the Taxpayers' Pocket Act" would give the government the option of buying out properties that have suffered repetitive flood losses if home owners don't elevate their property above the flood zone.
Those who don't want to sell can keep their flood insurance, but would have to pay much higher market-rate premiums.
Written by Reps. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) the revised bill, originally introduced in the summer of 1999, is designed to reduce repetitive loss benefits from the National Flood Insurance Program.
Repetitive loss properties are those with two or more claims with damages totaling more than $10,000 in any given 10-year period. More than 50,000-55,000 NFIP-insured structures fit that description, according tot the NFIP.
If the bill passes, more homes could be threatened with the loss of flood insurance coverage or higher premiums because more flood generating storms are predicted this year.
At Colorado State University, professor of atmospheric science William M. Gray and his team of meteorologists anticipate a 2001 Atlantic Coast hurricane season that will be 20 percent above the average for hurricane seasons during the last 50 years, with a Hurricane Destruction Potential (HDP) value of 75, compared to the average 71 HDP.
The entire U.S. coastline, primarily the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf Coast, has a 65 percent chance of landfall of one or more major hurricanes, compared to the 52 percent average for the last century.
There's little you can do if you are soaked in the middle of flooding spawned by the season's first tropical storm, Hurricane Allison. On June 9, President Bush declared 28 flood ravaged east Texas counties disaster areas. The day before in Louisiana, 11 parishes declared states of emergency due to the flooding.
Basic flood protection
But rather than gamble the legislation will fail again or the storm season won't spawn destructive floods, home owners can take steps to mitigate damage from lesser deluges.
- Simple drainage
The best flood mitigation strategy begins with proper drainage and experts say you should maintain a slope of at least 1/2-inch per foot for three to five feet (like an apron) around the perimeter of your home to allow water to flow away from your home. Concrete walks and patios should have a similar drainage pitch away from the home. The slope allows the water to flow away from your home. Also keep gutters clear and fit downspouts with extensions and splash pads to direct water away from your home.
Building in flood protection
- Mechanical drainage
If standing water beneath your home or in the basement has been a problem, consult with an engineer. You may need to install a subfloor drainage system tied into a surface drainage system. If your home's design prevents gravity from channeling water to the surface drainage system, you may need to install a sump pump. Powered by electricity with a back-up battery or water pressure mechanism, sump pumps can come with an automatic float switch that signals the pump to start once water reaches a certain level.
Sump pumps can also be a part of your external drain system if water does not naturally drain away from the house. Another common device that's useful in flood prone areas is a sewer line back flow valve. It prevents flood waters from forcing sewage back into the home. Don't forget to cap floor, appliance and other drains as a last line of defense against backed up water and sewage lines.
- Gravity systems
A more elaborate system called a "French drain", is an underground drainage system that traps and redirects ground water before it seeps into your house. As ground water moves toward your home, a French drain uses gravity to redirect the flow down through a wall of gravel into a drainage pipe to be carried off or pumped away.
- "Water proofing"
Exterior waterproofing and drain tiles also keep water from intruding into your home but, both require professional installation. Sealing your home against flood water leaves it without compensating pressure from the inside. Have an engineer certify that the walls you waterproof won't buckle under pressure.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's "Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your House From Flooding", additional measures often can be cost prohibitive or forbidden.
FEMA warns that some areas' building codes, floodplain management ordinances and National Flood Insurance Program regulations may render some retrofitting measures illegal.
Check with your local building code, zoning and planning officials before beginning major flood damage mitigation improvements, including:
- Building flood walls and levees. Construction designed to block or redirect flood waters requires adequate land space and periodic maintenance. The construction also could divert flood waters to neighboring homes or other structures and it's expensive.
- Elevating your home. Using piers, posts, columns or foundation walls all require extensive engineering, they may not be permitted near fault zones and they are very cost prohibitive.
- Moving to higher ground. Moving your home is perhaps the most cost prohibitive flood mitigation project of them all. It requires special construction and moving permits, dismantling some structures of the home, extensive engineering, specialized movers, a new site purchase and some disposition of the lot you vacate.