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Occupancy in flood zone shows insurance need

It’s going to take months for states victimized by Hurricane — subsequently Tropical Storm — Florence to assess fully the damage caused by the tragic, prolonged weather event.

It’s going to take longer than that for many individual families to pick up the proverbial pieces from the terrible impacts that they incurred. Some families are doomed to financial and physical struggles and challenges that, it’s safe to say, might never be overcome completely.

Prior to the hurricane, many of those families already were victims of serious financial limitations beyond their control that prohibited them from purchasing federal flood insurance and other coverage. It’s right to feel sorry for them and hope that government relief agencies and good Samaritans will help ease their struggles as quickly as possible.

Indeed, everyone should consider how they might be able to help those hurting people and act accordingly.

While it’s also important to feel sorry for individuals and families who had the financial means to protect themselves by way of flood insurance and other coverage but chose not to do so, for whatever reason, it isn’t out of line to feel that they shouldn’t receive priority treatment over those whose life’s circumstances prevented them from accessing available protections.

That attitude should prevail for North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, even regarding families in this region whose wrong — indeed, irresponsible — choices now are threatening their future.

Some of the flood damage incurred here wasn’t associated with Florence, but rather from record rainfall that preceded the hurricane.

To some people, it might seem premature and cruel to embrace such a post-hurricane opinion, considering that storm recovery still hasn’t been able to kick into high gear in most of the stricken states. However, there are limits to what can be provided to victims and, beyond immediate necessities, priorities must be directed toward those who truly lack the means to help themselves out of the tragic dilemma that has befallen them.

Indeed, those with the financial and physical means to attack their dilemma by themselves shouldn’t aim to take advantage of help that should go to people truly unable to address their current hardship.

In a July 19 article headlined “Homeowners are underinsured as hurricane season unfolds,” the Wall Street Journal reported that the three major landfalling hurricanes of 2017 — Harvey, Irma and Maria — served as a wake-up call to some people but, unfortunately, based on data from regulators, trade groups and the federal government, the storms’ warnings hadn’t been heeded by many others.

On Sept. 14, when Florence was bearing down on North Carolina and South Carolina, the Journal reported that, according to latest figures available, the 134,306 policies in effect in North Carolina from the National Flood Insurance Program represented a 3.6 percent decline from 2013. In South Carolina, there were 1.2 percent fewer flood policies, the total number of policies in effect being 204,342.

While the hurricane still was over the Atlantic Ocean, a consulting and actuarial firm estimated that fewer than 10 percent of the households that were likely to be affected by Florence in the Carolinas had federal flood insurance.

The massive flooding resulting from the hurricane has made clear the scope of the recovery mission that lies ahead, even though a realistic damage estimate won’t be forthcoming for some time.

Florence is gone, but its lessons about the importance of protecting oneself will continue to require strict attention, going forward.

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