It's no exaggeration to call flooding one of the most destructive, if not most expensive, types of natural disasters. In fact, in 2017 U.S. insurers recorded more than $8.7 billion in covered losses for flood-related claims.
And that wasn't even the worst year on record.
Colorado is no exception, despite the fact that we're located far from the coasts in a relatively dry part of the country. Here the issue isn't storm surges or hurricanes, but a far more widespread and problematic cause of flooding: rain.
The monsoonal flow of tropical moisture in the late summer is a regular feature of life in the Rocky Mountain West, and it’s not unusual for big storms to line up along the Front Range on a nearly daily basis between the months of July and September. These seasonal storms are created by winds shifting in from the south, pulling moisture up from California and the Gulf of Mexico rather than from the dry western side of the state.
The result? Localized flooding across much of Colorado.
We learned this firsthand in 2013 when floodwaters all but destroyed the town of Lyons and inundated the Longmont area and nearby Weld County. But flooding is a concern outside of Northern Colorado as well. The City of Denver maintains a map of the local floodplains within its borders, many of which are in heavily populated, downtown areas. And for those outside the metro area, the Colorado Water Conservation Board maintains a similar interactive map covering the entire state.
The risk of flooding is very real in Colorado, and as a result so too is the need for flood insurance.
Are You Covered?
Buying flood insurance coverage isn’t as straightforward as buying a standard homeowners policy. This means that, in the event of a flood event, any damage to your home may be excluded from insurance coverage if you don’t have a flood rider in place.
That's because flood insurance is a separate product that isn’t included in your standard homeowners package. Flood insurance is part of a federal program: The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is administered by FEMA and was set up in order to ensure that American home and property owners have access to flood coverage. Since flooding can be so expensive—and is so common—many private insurers are not able to finance this type of coverage on their own. The NFIP program acts as a backstop, funding coverage that a pool of private insurance companies write, taking over responsibility for any losses.
This doesn’t have much impact on individual homeowners, it just ensures that policies are available to them at reasonable rates and that the funding is there when you need it.
The Insurance Information Institute Pulse survey found that 15% of homeowners had a flood insurance policy as of 2018, up from just 12% in 2016.