The Okanagan River is pushing past its banks in eastern Washington because of rapid snowmelt in the mountains. It’s been more than 40 years since the area has seen this kind of event with emergency crews filling sandbags rather than preparing for wildfires.
This type of flooding, and the response, isn’t new for the people who live on the west side of the mountains in the Chehalis River Basin, with the most recent catastrophic flood happening about a decade ago.
But in spite of that risk, some residents there have been dropping their flood insurance policies, according to reporter Alex Brown from Centralia’s Chronicle. He talked about his reporting with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
Catastrophic flooding in 2007: "The state, in one study, found that the total economic loss of the 2007 flood was about $900 million, and almost a third of that was due to the I-5 closure. Just on flood insurance alone, in the city of Centralia, just about $15 million in flood insurance claims were paid out just to city residents."
Flood insurance policies down about 26 percent: "That's a big problem because Lewis County has had more flood insurance claims than any county in the state. So the fact that so many people have been dropping in the last four years is pretty alarming to local leaders here."
Premiums are too high: "A lot of folks have been reliant on the National Flood Insurance Program, which is a FEMA program that provides flood insurance at a rate that has historically been about half of the market rate. The problem is that that program has become not financially viable. After (hurricanes) Katrina and Sandy, it's about $25 billion in debt. So Congress has tried to come up with ways to make that program more sustainable. And part of that is bringing the premiums more in line with the market rate. So since 2012, premiums under the NFIP have gone up about 33 percent."