Recent Storm and Flooding
Whether you love dramatic weather or live in fear of it, you probably paid a lot of attention to the Friday, October 29 storm that socked beach communities with two-hours of heavy rain.
You saw damage almost everywhere as the Broadkill River overflowed its banks to cover Milton streets; as vast portions of Cedar Street and Savannah, American Legion, and New Road in Lewes disappeared underwater, and as 10-foot waves pounded the coast and devoured ocean beaches.
Facts about Storms and Flooding
If all of this has you worried about the public safety and financial impacts of future storms, you might sleep a little better knowing a few facts:
First, communities all along the Delaware coastline have some unique and significant protections due to the shape of our coast. As noted by meteorologist Brian McNoldy in this Washington Post article, “The Delmarva area is hard for hurricanes to hit both geographically and meteorologically . . . it’s a concave part of the coastline and storms that travel that far north are typically curving to the north or northeast. If the Delmarva Peninsula ‘stuck out’ east of Cape Hatteras, the hurricane landfall map would look quite different here.”
Second, we have another gift from nature – albeit a fragile one – in our vast expanses of wetlands. Two hours after becoming impassible to traffic during that October 29 storm, for example, Savannah Road in Lewes was cleared as the water receded into the marsh alongside the pavement. And although flooding frequently closes off New Road around Canary Creek, the 77,000-acre Great Marsh quickly absorbs the excess rainfall and decreases the impact of severe storms around Broadkill, as well.
Of course there’s no guarantee of permanent safety. Lots of longtime residents still have visceral memories of the great storm of 1962, which reshaped the Delmarva coastline and caused $50 million in damage (equivalent to $357 million today)
Making Improvements for the Future
Fortunately, local officials are taking steps to reduce flooding dangers. With nearly 400 townhomes and single family residences on the way, DELDOT is redesigning the New Road corridor improve traffic flow and reduce flooding, with a bridge over Canary Creek.
Meanwhile, planning and zoning officials are considering expanded buffers to protect the wetlands that protect our communities from flooding.
Information about Flood Insurance
You can also significantly reduce your personal risk of financial jeopardy by recognizing that most standard homeowners insurance policies do NOT cover flooding, and by seriously considering National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) coverage for your home. As illustrated in this brochure from FEMA’s Floodsmart program, you don’t have to live within view of pounding surf to be in danger. In fact, 40 percent of claims come from areas that are NOT designated as high-risk for flooding.
Equally important: coverage from the NFIP – which you can purchase from your local insurance agency – is surprisingly affordable in most cases. For a home in downtown Lewes with a market value of $800,000 in a flood zone deemed “moderate risk,” for example, an annual policy costing $633 provides $250,000 worth of coverage for the building and $100,000 for contents.
You can become more “floodsmart” by contacting your homeowners insurance agent to determine your level of risk and the cost of policy to protect one of the biggest investments you’re apt to make. That should also make your life at the beach a lot more peaceful the next time you see a big storm building on the horizon.