In­sur­ance: Flood dam­age in Texas could top $1 bil­lion, ex­perts say,

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Tim Eaton teaton@states­ Con­tact Tim Eaton at 512-445-3631.

Ex­perts said Thurs­day that flood­ing across Texas could lead to in­sur­ance claims of more than $1.1 bil­lion, top­ping the amount paid to pol­i­cy­hold­ers in 2001 af­ter the dam­age caused by Trop­i­cal Storm Al­li­son.

About 30,000 claims were filed af­ter Trop­i­cal Storm Al­li­son, and it is too early to know how many claims will be filed as a re­sult of the re­cent flood­ing, said in­sur­ance in­dus­try of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Lynne McChris­tian, a spokes­woman for the in­dus­try-sup­ported non­profit In­sur­ance In­for­ma­tion In­sti­tute.

But even if there are fewer claims, the pric­etag could be higher than with Tropi- cal Storm Al­li­son be­cause of greater pop­u­la­tion den­sity and in­creased con­struc­tion costs, she said.

“Just a lit­tle bit of flood dam­age can lead to costly re­pairs in a home,” said McChris­tian, who has been tour­ing af­fected ar­eas in Har­ris County.

The Na­tional Flood In­sur­ance Pro­gram, which is op­er­ated by the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, writes vir­tu­ally all the flood poli­cies in the U.S. But there is a limit. The pro­gram, of­ten re­ferred to as NFIP, al­lows for a struc­ture be in­sured for $250,000 and its con­tents for $100,000. Some­times home­own­ers and busi­nesses pur­chase sup­ple­men­tal cov­er­age from pri­vate car­ri­ers, McChris­tian said.

Texas has the sec­ond-high­est num­ber of fed­eral flood poli­cies in ef­fect with 597,951 poli­cies worth $157 bil­lion, be­hind only Florida, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral fig­ures. The typ­i­cal NFIP pol­i­cy­holder in Texas pays $627 a year.

Most of the poli­cies in Texas are writ­ten in Har­ris County. Hous­ton’s home county has 246,646 NFIP poli­cies, or 41 per­cent of all poli­cies in the state, fed­eral num­ber show.

In Hays County, there are 987 NFIP poli­cies, worth $253.5 mil­lion. Break­ing it down fur­ther, Wim­ber­ley has 166 NFIP poli­cies in ef­fect, val­ued at $39.5 mil­lion.

Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Texas In­sur­ance Coun­cil, said Thurs­day that it was un­clear how many of the de­stroyed prop­er­ties in Texas were in­sured.

Those peo­ple with­out in- surance could get some fed­eral re­lief, but only if Texas is con­sid­ered a fed­eral dis­as­ter area.

To get the des­ig­na­tion, Gov. Greg Ab­bott would have to re­quest it. But it is not clear if the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would make the dec­la­ra­tion.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said Thurs­day that fed­eral, state and lo­cal re­spon­dents have been work­ing well to­gether. But he added: “They ap­pear to have the as­sets they need at this stage to re­spond.”

On Thurs­day, FEMA ex­tended the 60-day “proof of loss dead­line.” The agency said cus­tomers now have 240 days af­ter the date of loss to pro­vide proof of it.

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