The next likely flood: insurance claims
Catherine Grisez and Darin Montgomery have been so busy mopping up that they haven't started tallying the cost of damage caused when 8 inches...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Flood informationKing County is asking anyone who suffered damage during Monday's storm to call the county's damage hotline — 800-523-5044 — between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. Online reports can be made 24 hours a day at www.kingcounty.gov/prepare
Seattle Public Utilities is operating a hotline for people who need flood-related assistance, were left homeless by Monday's storm or want to request a damage-claim form: 206-684-3000. Forms also can be downloaded at www.seattle.gov/riskmanagement/
To determine flood risk by address and to calculate annual flood-insurance premiums, visit www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/premiumest.jsp
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Catherine Grisez and Darin Montgomery have been so busy mopping up that they haven't started tallying the cost of damage caused when 8 inches of murky water from Monday's downpour flooded their metal shop and artists' studio in Seattle's South Park neighborhood.
That's why the claim form that Grisez mailed to the city of Seattle on Friday lists "damages unknown" instead of a dollar figure. But Grisez wanted to get the ball rolling since it could take "weeks and weeks" before a city adjuster looks at her claim, she said.
Damage claims are trickling into the city's risk-management office — only six had been filed by Friday afternoon.
Each will be investigated individually, and claims will be paid based on city infrastructure's contribution to the damage, said Katherine Schubert-Knapp, a spokeswoman for the office. She said residents need to document damages with photographs and video and save receipts for repairs.
Meanwhile, county officials across Western Washington are trying to persuade cities, residents and business owners to report their uninsured losses by Monday. Those figures will be forwarded to the governor's office in order to determine whether the state qualifies for a federal emergency-disaster declaration, which would make federal grants and low-interest loans available for flood-related repairs.
As of 2 p.m. Friday, 192 King County residents had reported roughly $4.25 million in uninsured losses, with an additional $524,000 in damages reported by 16 business owners, according to Jaime Quick, a spokesman for the county's Office of Emergency Management.
"When people call us and report their damages, it helps us give the federal government a broader picture of what's happening here on the ground," Quick said.
The county's damage tally eventually will include costs to city governments.
For instance, a preliminary estimate of Seattle employees' overtime costs and costs to repair city infrastructure from Monday's storm is roughly $5 million, said Erika Lund, recovery coordinator in the city's emergency-management office. Last year's windstorm, which caused widespread power outages, cost the city $8.6 million in overtime and repairs to roads and other infrastructure, she said.
To those who think flood damage is covered by their renters'-, homeowners'-, business- or farm-insurance policies, think again, said Darrin Sanger of the NW Insurance Council. Although wind damage is covered, insurance policies specifically exclude flood damage, as well as earthquakes, landslides and other "Earth movements," he said. Consumers can purchase separate flood or earthquake policies, he said, and farmers who purchase a special policy for their livestock are covered for sudden, unexpected deaths of farm animals.
"Wind is always covered, along with fire, theft and explosions," Sanger said. "But standard policies don't include floods — it's right there in the contract."
While flood insurance is available in a majority of Washington communities, few people have it, said Mike Howard, external-affairs director for the regional office of the Federal Emergency Management Administration that covers Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Oregon. He explained that a community must participate in the National Flood Insurance Program in order for individuals to purchase flood insurance — and virtually every community in this state does.
Statewide, 34,818 flood-insurance policies are in effect.
In King County, only 4,950 residents and business owners have purchased flood insurance, with a value of nearly $1.2 billion, he said. Premiums depend on flood risk and vary widely.
In flood-stricken Lewis and Grays Harbor counties, there are more policies in effect by population, but the majority still aren't covered. In Lewis County, 1,881 flood-insurance policies cover $3.2 million in property, and in Grays Harbor County, 3,599 policies cover property valued at a little more than $5 million, Howard said.
People such as Grisez and Montgomery — the South Park artists whose Concord Street South studio was flooded — need to file damage claims with the city within three years.
Grisez said she believes a faulty city drain — and runoff from a nearby hill — is responsible for the flooding in her neighborhood.
She still doesn't know if the music boxes she crafts from fabricated steel, copper and bronze will need to be refinished — or if they're ruined. Since Monday, 20 of the finished boxes and 11 works-in-progress have been laid out on towels in Grisez's living room to allow their music-making mechanisms to dry.
But rust is beginning to show.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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