Representatives from a federal agency overseeing flood insurance payouts is warning Utah residents to prepare now for potentially heavy seasonal rain storms. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is hoping to help homeowners avoid problems that happen when weather patterns are unpredictable.
“Right now we are focused on flash flooding,” said David Maurstad, deputy associate administrator for Insurance and Mitigation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "It is something that is more unexpected, as folks found out last year in Salt Lake City.”
Last summer unexpected heavy rains led to widespread damage. Homes and schools in the Sugar House area filled with water. Too much water came down too quickly.
“One of FEMA's top priorities is building a culture of preparedness and closing the insurance gap and making sure people have the protection they need when they need it," he said.
In July homes and barns in the southern Utah community of Dammeron Valley were damaged when rivers filled with debris. The 2017 Brian Head Wildfire left burns scars that prevented the water from soaking into the ground. Charred tree trunks and shrubs gathered in the heavy rains, filling the Virgin River and forcing water to flow through neighborhood roads.
In a 2010 report published by the Washington County Planning Department officials stated that flood control in the area of Dammeron Valley has not been "a major problem."
"Well, where it can rain it can flood,” Maurstad said. “Homeowners and business owners are surprised that their properties are damaged in those low to moderate risk areas, but we have a number of claims in those areas so it is very important for them to be just as prepared. And, I think they will find out most of the time that their homeowner policy or their renter’s policy doesn't cover flood damage."
More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims have been for properties in low to moderate risk-flood zones. Maurstad said it can take up to 30 days for a flood insurance policy to go into effect.