St. Charles dodged historic flood, but not residents’ attention

Since Louisiana’s historic flood, the telephone has been ringing steadily at local insurance companies to buy policies, inquiry about coverage and ensure flood insurance is current.

“It was expected,” said Lisa Clark, staff assistant at State Farm in Luling who’s been in the insurance business 30 years. “We might average one to two a month, but I’ve written policies for four people already this week. I expect more actually.”

Their phones also have steadily remained busy with calls from people asking for insurance quotes, as well as from those who want to ensure their policies are current.

This isn’t a surprising trend considering one in eight East Baton Rouge businesses and residents have flood insurance, although it wasn’t required for their area hit by a disaster some have compared to Superstorm Sandy. Their houses are located in an area identified by FEMA as Zone X, which meant mortgage providers did not require they have flood insurance.

FEMA has announced a grant program for those affected that would provide up to $33,000 assistance if they lived in Zone X.

Statewide, an estimated 21 percent of Louisiana residents have flood insurance, a number that even the state’s Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon deemed low.

Earl Matherne, St. Charles Parish’s planning administrator, said FEMA uses the 100-year flood level to designate flood zones, but the Great Flood of 2016 exceeded it possibly reaching the 500-year level in an area where water rose five to six feet.

In St. Charles Parish, Matherne reported flood insurance policies were down by 1,047 as of June of this year.

“Regardless of what zone you’re in, I think it’s urgent to carry flood insurance,” said Jason Noto, agent for Farm Bureau Insurance. “I think the biggest thing is that we live in Louisiana – the whole state is a flood zone.”

Noto questioned how anywhere in the state can be designated as Zone X, which he maintained has “put people in financial crisis in Baton Rouge because they weren’t required to have the insurance.”

At his office in Luling, the phone has been ringing about flood insurance, too.

They’re averaging a dozen calls a day from people who want to buy it, get quotes or update policies.

“We are absolutely seeing an increase in demand for flood insurance,” Noto said. “There’s a lot more people looking to review their policies to ensure their coverage is up to date.”

People are a lot more receptive to discussing their coverage, he said. And, even with levee construction underway in the parish, Noto said flood insurance is a necessity because there is no way to predict what nature will do.

Bottom line, he added, “History can be made in one day.”

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