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Experts advise flood insurance as south suburbs get ravaged again

South suburban residents seek flood insurance after latest round of rain
South suburban residents seek flood insurance after latest round of rain 02:48

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (CBS) -- Relief efforts are stalling for homeowners hit with severe flooding over the weekend in the south suburbs.

As CBS 2's Andrew Ramos reported, the importance of flood insurance is now in the spotlight in communities such as Calumet City.

For many homeowners in Calumet City, this past weekend was the second go-around of devastating floods in weeks.

It is leading many to look over their insurance policies and get the facts on flood insurance.

The water started rushing into Robin Davis' basement during heavy downpours on Sunday morning.

"I mean, we have, you know, flooding in the basements a little bit – but not a river," Davis said.

The water rose nearly two feet and was a combo of rainfall and an apparent sewage backup. It created a mess that Davis believes will soon escalate.

"It's already molding. You could smell it," Davis said. "It's going to only get worse."

And so far, Davis and his sister - who lost both their cars in the weekend flooding that surprised many homeowners in the south suburbs - have gotten no real answers from their insurance company.

"I don't understand," Davis said. You pay your bills every month, and then when it's time for them to help you, you have no help."

South suburban homeowners considering flood insurance 02:13

In the United States, if you live in a designated flood zone, you are required by law to have flood insurance. But if you live outside a high-risk area, it is optional and would be an additional policy.

"So we are experiencing more events that may be climate-related, and that is increasing the losses experienced by policyholders," said Peter Waggonner, public policy director for GNO Inc.

Experts thus say it is better to be safe than sorry.

"Flood maps, unfortunately, are not live products. They're done at a certain time and then adopted, and then they need to be updated," Waggonner said. "So, it's not necessarily reflective of your flood risk if, per se, a huge development comes next-door, paves over the land that might make you more susceptible to runoff water from stormwater."

An analysis by CBS News Chicago shows that statewide, as of July, roughly 33,000 homeowners in Illinois have an active flood insurance policy.

According to First Street data, this is despite over 150,000 properties currently at risk for flooding in Cook County alone.

With natural disasters happening more frequently, adding flood coverage - which in most cases under the National Flood Insurance program covers as much as $250,000 in damages - is highly recommended by experts. But it may come with a sky-high premium.

"We propose that Congress authorize a means-tested affordability program, so at some level of area median income, you would get discounts based on your income to afford flood insurance coverage," Waggonner said.

It's important to note that flood policy only covers water that comes in through doors and windows or rises from the outside. If the water is coming up through your sump pump or toilets – like a sewer backup - that is not covered under flood insurance.

You can expect to pay a bit over $100 for the first $5,000 in flood insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not yet gotten involved in relief efforts in Calumet City. Right now, it is a matter of waiting on the state to issue a disaster declaration before federal help could come in.

Calumet City Mayor Thaddeus Jones is expected to hold a news conference Wednesday morning addressing concerns in the community.

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