Kelly Leighton

Last Updated: January 10, 2018 | View all posts by Kelly Leighton

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean homeowners don’t have to worry about flooding.

The threat of flooding is very real, and something they should have on their radar. John Dickson of NFS Edge and Terry Black of Aon National Flood Services offer their expertise to help homeowners prepare for the worst.

Black said there are three main causes of wintertime flooding, including ground freeze, which is when it snows and the ground freezes and cannot absorb water; thawing and refreezing causes water to glaze and run over. There are also ice jams, when ice starts to warm and break up, it can get caught behind bridge piers and physically create a dam that causes backups. Ice jams can even happen in streams or rivers pushing water out, he said. Finally, high winds can be problematic and cause high tides to overcome beach dunes. What’s more, waves can cause erosion and cause potential flood in spring in summer months if not repaired.

“Risk from the above exposures is escalated when combined with warm spring rains, so that you increase the amount of water that the ground and drainage systems are required to handle,” added Black. “Most people don’t recognize the risk of wintertime flooding or that their homeowner’s policy may exclude it. Over the last five years, approximately 7 percent of flood claims occur from January to March.”

Dickson advised homeowners to understand the impact of flood in their areas, and better understand the potential impact to your home or business. “Be prepared. Have a preparedness plan in place,” he said. “Monitor local and regional weather alerts prior to and during water-related events. Make an inventory of your personal property, including model numbers and serial numbers of electronics and appliances. Familiarize yourself with your flood insurance policy so you know what coverage you have, or don’t have. If you do not have a copy of your flood insurance policy, be sure to contact your agent to obtain one.”

He also warned homeowners to be aware of certain limitations in their policies, such as coverage for basements and enclosures, or if the policy covers additional living expenses, such as shelter or meals if they are displaced from their home as a result of a flood.

An emergency back-up packet is a helpful tool to have in the event of flooding, and Dickson recommended scanning or providing important documents to a friend or relative to store in a safe location away from the property at risk, so homeowners can still access them even if the house is flooded.

Even if a home may not seem at risk, Black warned that heavy snows and changing weather patterns cause unpredictability and can lead to flooding in low-risk areas. “Regardless of your geographic location, remember that a disaster is more likely to escalate when you’re not prepared. Following some simple, practical steps can help you mitigate your exposure, respond better and recover faster in the event of a flood. And in an instance where you may need to file a claim, you’ll be better positioned to help your covered claim move forward as quickly and efficiently as possible,” added Black.

“It can be harder to get repairs done in the winter because of the weather and the elements. Just because winter is a low frequency time period for flood events, winter flood events still do occur and can be devastating. In many cases, flooding actually occurs in areas where you would least expect it. Many people intentionally or unintentionally don’t self-insure for flood and make an assumption it is covered under their homeowner’s policy,” said Black.