Nearly six weeks later, water-damaged loveseats, bathroom cabinets, piles of floor tiles and black bags full of damp and mildewed photo albums still pepper the curb along Lago Drive on the west side of Harlingen just south of the Interstate.
This is the result of a rainstorm that poured down 12 inches during a span of about four hours on June 24. Reportedly, more than 4,000 homes in the Harlingen area saw damage by what city officials called a 500-year rain event.
While the repairs continue, Lago Drive residents continue to look back at 2008 and Hurricane Dolly. Several longtime Lago Drive homeowners say water didn’t even reach halfway up their driveways during that hurricane. That’s why many thought they were safe from any flood event.
But, after this latest storm, more than half the homes on the cul de sac had at least two inches of water inside, some as much as six inches. About half of those property owners didn’t have flood insurance.
What you need to know about flood insurance that you probably don’t:
This is a typical story all around Harlingen and the surrounding areas impacted by this flash flood event.
Freedom Insurance and Liberty Tax area manager Karen Martinez says she has been hearing from people around Harlingen and Willacy County who say their agent didn’t tell them about flood insurance. They also believed any flood damage would be covered by their homeowner’s policy. She has become the one to tell them it doesn’t.
The cost of flooding
According to FEMA, just one inch of water in your home can cost $27,000 or more to mitigate and repair drywall, floors and insulation. Martinez says a homeowner off Bass Boulevard in a new subdivision reported $40,000 in damage without insurance. So far, that is the highest of anyone she’s talked to, but costs for repairs in some areas are expected to be much higher.
Most federal disaster assistance to individual homeowners comes from low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. They must be paid back like any loan. FEMA offers disaster grants that don’t need to be paid back, but the amounts provided are often much less than what is needed to recover your home to its original condition.
Claims against your flood insurance policy often provide more funds for recovery than those you could qualify for through FEMA and the SBA – and you don’t have to pay the money back. That’s the benefit of having flood insurance.
Those without insurance, like the handful of residents on Lago Drive and those affected in other areas of the city, have secured SBA loans. Others are waiting for FEMA help. It is unknown if or when those FEMA monies will come through.
With hurricane season in full force right now and through November, Martinez is quick to suggest anyone currently without flood insurance secure it immediately based on the lessons learned since June 24.
“I think everyone needs to have it,” she says. “Waterways are not as good as they used to be, brush gets in there.”
Flood insurance is easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive at about $500 per year. It can be obtained anytime, even during hurricane season. Those who sign up must wait 30 days before the policy goes into effect. Now is the time to get it for the remainder of hurricane season and have protection from any other storm event through the next 12 months.
“So we are on the coast and you never know what will happen,” Martinez says. “Be prepared for the unexpected. You never know. We didn’t anticipate that storm (June 24) and it created such a mess.”