Florida cities named most at-risk for storm surge flooding, but number of flood policies remains low

A recent study named Tampa as the U.S. city most vulnerable to storm surge flooding, with four of the top eight cities in the country all in Florida.

The study, “Most Vulnerable U.S. Cities to Storm Surge Flooding” was released in August by Karen Clark & Company (KCC) which specializes in catastrophe risk management. The study puts loss estimates for Tampa at $175 billion for residential, commercial, and industrial properties in the event of a “100 year hurricane”, i.e. a major hurricane with a 1-in-100 chance of occurring in a given year (or a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded each year).

tampafloodingWhile that number is staggering, what’s worse is most of the flood damage potential is not currently insured. A recent AAA survey found that 76% of Florida residents surveyed did not have flood insurance, and 54% were not aware of the 30-day waiting period for a new flood policy. Despite not having flood insurance, 51% of those surveyed were concerned about flooding during hurricane season, as they should be.

The KCC report stated, “A severe storm with the right track orientation will cause an enormous buildup of water that will become trapped in the bay and inundate large areas of Tampa and St. Petersburg.” The highest point of Tampa is only 48ft, with the majority of residents living far below this elevation. Homes in low risk zones account for 20% of flood claims, and just 2 inches of water in a 2,000 sq. foot home can cost an estimated $21,000.

But the risk extends well beyond Florida. As seen with Hurricane Katrina and the recent floods in South Carolina, anyone is susceptible to severe flooding and a “1,000 year storm”. Many people affected by Katrina were uninsured. South Carolina has roughly 2.2 million housing units but fewer than 200,000 policies, though damages from the recent flooding so far have been estimated at well over $1 billion.

Steve Harper surveys a flooded house from his boat Wednesday, April 8, 2009 in northeastern Madison County, Fla.

Even for those who do have flood insurance, in most states the limits are $250,000 or $500,000, and an excess policy is needed for more coverage.

Socius Insurance Services Inc. is able to place excess flood insurance for commercial or habitational risks and can also provide deductible buyback programs. “This policy bridges the gap between what you pay and what the carrier wants you to pay in regards to the deductible,” explains Derick Stitik, Senior Vice President of Socius Tampa and Property Practice Leader for the company. Socius also provides wind and excess wind policies, which are also important when protecting your property from severe weather risks.

Find out more about Socius Insurance Services’ property products and their specialty in large catastrophe schedules on their website. You can also learn more about flood and wind insurance here.