Get insurance before floods

Published 10:26 pm Friday, June 24, 2011

When it comes to climate science, there’s plenty of controversy to go around. Is global warming a true threat to the planet? What causes it? What will be its effects? Does it even exist and, if so, how bad is the problem? The questions have become so politicized and the debate so polarized that people on both sides have largely lost the attention of those in the middle.

People can debate over the human contribution to rising temperatures on Earth. They can argue about the ability of the Earth to recover from environmental stresses. And they can disagree about the effectiveness of human intervention on climate — whether for good or ill.

But when both sides lace those debates with vitriolic rhetoric that paints people on the other side of the issue as something just short of demonic, the folks who have not yet made up their minds about the matter find themselves turned off to the whole debate. And as a result, they sometimes miss important non-controversial information likely to have immediate importance in their lives.

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Such is the case with a recent report released by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, which found in a study of data from tide gauges at various locations around the area that water levels are rising around Hampton Roads. According to the report, water levels are one to two feet higher around the area than they were 100 years ago.

The cause of that rise in water level is open to debate, and there are certain to be many words spoken and written in support of that debate. Whatever the cause, however, the data would seem to speak for itself. And the point here is that there are some simple, important things that average people in Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads should understand about the implications of that data.

With water levels higher around the area, Hampton Roads is more susceptible to problems from hurricanes. “Something that right now is vulnerable only to a Category 2 [hurricane] might be vulnerable to a Category 1 in 50 to 100 years from now,” said Benjamin McFarlane, a regional planner with HRPDC. Even today, higher mean water levels translate to higher storm surges.

So what can you do about it? There’s plenty of debate on that topic, as well. But one thing both sides agree on is flood insurance. Your regular homeowner’s policy will not cover you in the event of water getting into your home, and flood insurance is inexpensive and readily available. But you must have it for 30 days before it takes effect, which means you can’t wait until a hurricane is on its way across the Atlantic.

You may not be able to directly affect climate change. In fact, you probably won’t even be able to change the tone of the debate about it. But you can insure yourself against rising waters. Call your insurance agent. Hurricane season is here.