TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Idalia flooded parts of Tampa Bay from Bayshore to Crystal River. In its aftermath, 8 On Your Side noticed something unexpected. Some families in the most high-risk flood zones did not have flood insurance.
Investigator Mahsa Saeidi talks with one man who’s glad he skipped the coverage, despite all that water.
We all know that Hurricane Idalia brought a surge. At one point, the River Walk, on the Hillsborough River, was completely under water. Insurance brokers say that is exactly why you need flood coverage but not all storm victims agree.
Just a few yards from Crystal River, 8 On Your Side found a quaint home on the canal. Unlike the mansions up on stilts, this one-story structure was right on the ground.
In the front yard, we met Mark Wheeler cleaning up Idalia’s mess.
“Back in Hermine and ’93 you would’ve seen a pile about three times this big,” said Mr. Wheeler.
This home has been in Mr. Wheeler’s family since 1985; so, it’s not his first rodeo.
“This the third flood we went through,” he said. “We just wash it out and move along.”
Mr. Wheeler showed us the damage. The family has done a lot of hurricane prep. Of course, the furniture is always placed up high on saw horses. But years ago, Mr. Wheeler says they made changes to the interior of the home to protect it from water. The floors can handle floods.
“It’s a concrete base that’s seamless,” he said.
The cabinets were redone: no particle board, it’s 100% wood.
To help flood-proof the walls, the family replaced the sheet rock.
“Over here you can see the PVC board,” he said.
But perhaps the biggest change: the family doesn’t have flood coverage. They dropped it years ago and they’re not alone. As rates have climbed, other storm victims tell 8 On Your Side they don’t think paying for flood insurance is worth it.
“If you go five years without a flood, that more than covers the little bit of cost to patch up things,” said Mr. Wheeler.
Insurance brokers say it’s a risky move. But if you don’t have a mortgage, it’s your choice.
You should note that a standard homeowners policy does not cover floods. Most people that carry flood, get it through the National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP. According to data provided by NFIP, most of the folks living inland opt out of coverage. But in Pinellas County one out of four homes are insured.
In Hillsborough and Sarasota counties, it’s close to one in five.
As for Mr. Wheeler, he says with each flood, the clean-up gets easier.
“Next time the trim will be put on with screws so we can just pop the screws out,” he said.