Now’s The Time

Flooding is expected to be a big issue in the area again this spring, and state and local officials are urging homeowners to start now in getting flood insurance.

Preliminary indications are that the spring of 2020 will provide no break from the flooding that hounded much of the region last year.  

As a result, officials are putting out a call to anyone who doesn’t have flood insurance — the time to get it is now.

Last week, the South Dakota Department of Public Safety released a column to regional media by Tina Titze, director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management.

“Weather extremes are a part of life here and in fact we take pride in our ability to handle weather that many others cannot,” she said in the release. “The last year was no exception and many South Dakotans are still feeling the impact of last year’s storms that resulted in federal disaster declarations for 63 of our 66 counties.”

More of the same is expected this year.

Yankton County Director of Emergency Management Paul Scherschligt told the Press & Dakotan that parts of the James River, especially to the north, remain frozen out of the river’s banks — and that will be making its way south in the coming months.

“There’s a lot of moisture up north that’s got to come this way once it starts warming up,” Scherschligt said. “It’s actually starting to warm up a little bit now, but we’ll see what happens there and also on the Missouri River.”

He said that officials from meteorologists to emergency managers are keeping tabs on the conditions moving forward. In Yankton County, he said that people are able to fill sandbags at the Highway Department shop just off of 31st St./W. Highway 50.

County officials are taking the threat seriously and will emphasize flood response during the Yankton County Office of Emergency Management’s annual full-scale exercise next week.

Given the ominous forecast, Scherschligt said that the time to act on flood insurance, if a homeowner doesn’t already have it, is immediately.

“It’s not like going in and buying house insurance,” he said. “There’s a process that it goes through.”

According to FEMA’s website, a flood insurance policy typically takes 30 days to be enacted following purchase.

“It was March (13) last year that we had the big flooding in Yankton and all over the county,” Scherschligt said. “That’s a little less than a month away now. So, start the process now, see what you’ve got to do and who you’ve got to talk to, and what types of insurance you need to get because it’s not an overnight deal.”

Titze said there are many misconceptions about flood insurance that people should understand.

“Too many times last year, I heard people say they didn’t think they could get flood insurance, or didn’t need it, because they did not live in a floodplain,” she said. “The truth is that if you live in a city or county that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you can get flood insurance, regardless of whether you live in a designated floodplain. And, if you live where it rains, it can flood where you live.”

She added that having insurance goes a long ways toward a speedy recovery.

“Flooding is the number one natural disaster in the United States, yet less than half of all flooding events result in a federal disaster declaration,” she said. “In South Dakota last year, the average amount of housing assistance from FEMA was about $4,000 to eligible residents, while the average insurance claim for flooding last year paid more than $29,000. With flood insurance, you’re able to recover faster and more fully.”

According to Scherschligt, some parts of the county are very well covered when it comes to flood insurance because they have to be.

“A lot of people in Wildwood south of Fleeg’s had flood insurance,” he said. “Basically, the fact is, for them to get the loans for the homes that they own, they had to have it. It’s part of the requirement for getting a loan, especially living in a floodplain region.”

He said that if a person has dealt with past flooding or been near it, they should be preparing now for spring 2020.

“If you’ve had a history of flooding in your area or you’ve had water close, I would start getting the necessary stuff, sandbags and preparing for it,” he said.

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For more information on flood assistance and mitigation, visit http://www.co.yankton.sd.us/custom/emergency-management.

Follow @RobNielsenPandD on Twitter.

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