Flooding in the northeast leaves residents high and dry

NEW YORK – After being hit by two tropical storms that submerged basements, cracked house foundations and destroyed property, residents of the northeastern United States, still recovering, take another blow unexpected: Thousands of families are now overwhelmed with financial losses because they lacked flood insurance.

Most of those caught off guard by the torrential downpours of the remnants of Hurricane Ida and Tropical Storm Henri lived in areas outside the coastal floodplains, making flood insurance an afterthought. for most working class families whose neighborhoods have been among the hardest hit.

“When we called the insurance company, the first thing they told us was that they don’t provide any assistance for anything that is caused by a storm. And they left it at that,” he said. said Amit Shivprasad, his rising voice echoing the frustrations shared among his neighbors in the Jamaican section of Queens.

For weeks now, Shivprasad and his parents have been crammed into a relative’s apartment after New York City home inspectors declared their home uninhabitable.

Ida’s floodwaters, exacerbated by overflowing storm drains and sewers, tore an exterior wall and drowned two of the family’s tenants in a basement apartment. The storm killed around 50 people in the northeast, many of whom drowned in basement apartments or cars. He whipped the area less than two weeks after a watering from Henri.

Of the 10,000 or so homes in the Shivprasad neighborhood, only 16 were protected by flood insurance, according to a database compiled by the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

Flood damage is not covered by homeowners ‘or tenants’ insurance policies. People without a flood insurance policy have few options for getting help paying for damage, according to Loretta Worters, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute. They may be able to get federal help, she said, including low-interest loans and damage grants.

While authorities are still calculating the losses – estimated at billions of dollars – residents wonder how they will find the money to repair homes and replace property. Fans continue to roar in damp basements, and dump trucks still circle around hauling moldy couches, soft mattresses, and now-unnecessary electronics.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has already paid at least $ 22 million to nearly 5,200 families in New York City. More than 38,000 households have requested assistance. In New Jersey, aid to some 39,000 families is still on hold, while FEMA has paid about $ 11 million to nearly 3,000 families.

So far, about $ 10 million in flood insurance claims have been paid in New Jersey to 6,000 policyholders, according to FEMA. In the five boroughs of New York City, approximately $ 3 million was disbursed for 2,600 flood insurance claims.

Flood insurance, offered through the National Flood Insurance Program, is generally required for mortgages on properties considered to have about a 1 in 100 chance of flooding each year, but is optional for everyone. others. Some see it as an unnecessary cost, even as severe weather strikes now with more frequency and intensity.

“You never know, especially with the way the world is acting right now, when this flood is going to happen in your neighborhood,” said Michael Wade, a FEMA spokesperson.

John and Roseann Kiernan’s neighborhood of Rossmoor, a seniors’ residence in Monroe Township, central New Jersey, is 20 miles from the coast and not near major rivers. The Kiernans and others said they had been told over the years that they did not need flood insurance because the area is not in a flood zone, even though the neighborhood has flooded in 2005.

The Kiernans estimate that it will cost $ 100,000 to restore their house to habitable condition and replace their car.

Their current policy “didn’t cover anything,” said John Kiernan, a retired corrections officer. “The insurance company sent some really nice, understanding people, they listened to everyone for about an hour, then basically said, ‘You don’t get anything. “So that’s how it is.”

On the corner of the Kiernan, Joan Russo and her husband have lived in the same house for 16 years and moved in a few days before the 2005 floods. Their house suffered extensive water damage during Henri, forcing them to move in with her son’s family. In another town.

“When we took out our insurance, they said, ‘You are not in a flood zone, it is not necessary,'” she said. “You listen to the provider, and they say you don’t need it, so you don’t get it.”

Information for this article was provided by Ken Sweet of The Associated Press.

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