Prepare for floods with insurance

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — Hurricane season is here, and if the recent torrential rains aren’t a reminder enough, here’s another one: now is the time to sign up for flood insurance and be prepared for the unexpected.

“If you live in south Louisiana, you need flood insurance,” Mike Williams, a State Farm insurance agent in LaPlace, said.

Williams, whose office facilitates the most flood insurance policies in St. John the Baptist Parish, pointed out that although all 50 states have had floods, the often-unpredictable weather we face in the South warrants extra caution. He said people often feel a false sense of security if they live in an area that doesn’t require flood insurance.

A flood insurance plan, which can run as low as $400 a year for non-flood zones, is a small price to pay for peace of mind, Williams said.

Williams explained there is a 30-day waiting period from when you apply and pay for your flood insurance plan to when it is effective. Because of this waiting period, it is imperative to sign up sooner than later.

Charlene St. Martin, who works with Williams, said the waiting period used to be five days but changed to 30 when people started to sign up for insurance only when there was a storm in the Gulf of Mexico. She said if people saw a storm had a high probability of impacting their home, they would sign up for insurance and be covered by the time of landfall. The new 30-day waiting period prohibits that.

At least 116 St. James Parish homes and businesses and 12 St. John the Baptist Parish homes flooded unexpectedly last week after unprecedented rainfall.

Darcie Roussel was just one of the St. James Parish homeowners caught off-guard May 28 as heavy rainfall caused flooding.

Roussel, who lives on Wendy Street in Paulina, said she has lived in her home for nearly 14 years and has never seen water rise so high, and so fast, as she did last week.

She said at 6 a.m. last Wednesday her husband’s alarm clock went off and he went outside to check the weather. At that point, water had risen to her front door’s threshold and soon began to enter the home through the back door.

“There was nothing we could do,” Roussel said.

Four inches of water soon pooled in her house. Roussel said she and her husband, as well as family and friends who came to pitch in, were able to save most of the furniture in the house by lifting it up onto bricks. She said her two children went to work clearing their floors and throwing everything on their beds.

“I’ve always been told we live in a non-flood zone,” Roussel said. “It just happened so fast.”

With no flood insurance, Roussel must wait to see if the state declares a state of emergency for the floods. A state-declared emergency is the only way FEMA can step in to assist flood victims. St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel made the first step May 28 by declaring the parish in a state of emergency.

“This is a disaster for me,” said Darcie Roussel. “I feel hopeless right now.”

Other than signing up for flood insurance, there are other actions residents should consider to get prepared for hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30.

“Louisianians know how frequently our state lies in the path of hurricanes and tropical storms, and our people know too well how dangerous these storms can be for our communities,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said. “That is why to mark the start of hurricane season I am urging all Louisianians to get a game plan ready for their families before a storm is headed our way. Although we hope for the best, we should always prepare for the worst so we can ensure we’re ready for a hurricane or other natural disaster threatening our state.”