Only 14 percent of American homeowners have flood insurance to protect their dwellings and belongings, even though more than four out of five natural disasters nationwide involve flooding, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).
A larger share of homeowners in the South have flood insurance than in other parts of the country. Only 5 percent of homeowners in the Northeast, 12 percent in the West and 13 percent in the Midwest have flood insurance, compared to 19 percent of homeowners in the South.
Standard home and renters insurance policies don't cover damage from floods. Coverage for flood damage is available through the National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurance companies.
The low percentage of homeowners with flood insurance is troubling, especially in light of the recently upgraded Atlantic hurricane season forecast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected 14 to 19 named storms between Aug. 4 and Nov. 30, up from 12 to 18 named storms projected in May. The agency also said 2011 Atlantic hurricanes would probably number seven to 10, rather than six to 10 as earlier predicted.
The federal government declared 28 major flood disasters during the first half of this year, well ahead of the pace set in 2010, III says.
"People tend to underestimate the risk of flooding," Jeanne Salvatore, III senior vice president and consumer spokesperson, said in a press statement. "But, in fact, 90 percent of all natural disasters in this country involve flooding. It is important to note that there is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance to go into effect, so don't delay purchasing this important financial protection."