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Know your flood risk

Gov. Ralph Northam has declared March 14-20 as Virginia Flood Awareness Week, and it comes at quite an opportune time this year.

First of all, it arrives after a long period of extremely wet weather for the majority of the state. Thankfully, here in Suffolk, we’ve seen the last of the rain falling for a few days, according to the National Weather Service forecast, but many of us still are seeing standing water on our property or others nearby.

Second of all, this Flood Awareness Week arrives a year into Virginia’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, and those of us fortunate enough to have a place to live have had 365 days to contemplate how quickly things can change, how much our home is a refuge for us and what having a safe place to live means to us. Much like the pandemic, a flood could change everything at a moment’s notice and even strip us of our last refuge in times like these.

Virginia Flood Awareness Week is a time for Virginians to learn about their flood risk and protect their homes and property with flood insurance ahead of spring rains and hurricane season. It builds on a number of initiatives aimed at bolstering the commonwealth’s resilience to hazardous events such as extreme weather, storm surge and recurrent flooding.

Virginians can use the Virginia Flood Risk Information System, available through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, to identify their property’s flood risk.

DCR is the state agency responsible for coordinating flood-protection activities and helps communities comply with requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Most homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies do not cover damage from floods or surface water or storm surges. Only 3% of Virginians have flood insurance, according to the National Flood Insurance Program.

“Virginians should review their insurance policies now to make sure they have the coverage they need ahead of spring rains and the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs June 1 through Nov. 30,” said DCR Director Clyde Cristman. “It takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to go into effect, so it’s important to be covered before a storm.”

Nearly 90% of Virginia communities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, which allows all of their residents — regardless of flood zone — the ability to purchase federally backed flood insurance. Flood insurance may also be available through private insurers.

The public is invited to participate in a variety of upcoming planned activities, most of them virtual, to learn about, and share, the impacts of flooding. For more information, visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/floodawarenessweek.