Flood-coverage gains slow to trickle

'Either you put your house on stilts or get insurance.'

After hundreds of homes and businesses were inundated by the rain-swollen Pawtuxet River two years ago, some local insurance agents thought demand for flood insurance in Cranston and Warwick might rise like the water had. More

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INSURANCE

Flood-coverage gains slow to trickle

'Either you put your house on stilts or get insurance.'

PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
BELOW WATER: Shanix Technology owner Kehin Shah holds photos of the damage in his Cranston office caused by the March 2010 floods. Like many small-business owners at the time, Shah did not have flood coverage.
PBN FILE PHOTO/RYAN T. CONATY
LIQUID ASSETS: The devastating floods of 2010 hit several businesses particularly hard, including Wahttp://pbn.cms.communityq.com/images/icon-move.pngrwick Mall, which was shuttered for months afterward.
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Posted 4/2/12

After hundreds of homes and businesses were inundated by the rain-swollen Pawtuxet River two years ago, insurance agent Jean Martinelli thought demand for flood insurance from some of his neighbors in Cranston and Warwick might rise like the water had.

Not exactly.

“They’re not taking it out – unless the bank and the federal government make them do it,” said Martinelli, owner of Jean Martin Insurance on Reservoir Avenue in Cranston.

“I have a client on Scarborough Beach [Narragansett] whose house was swept away by the Hurricane of ’38, rebuilt in the same spot, and doesn’t have [flood insurance],” Martinelli said. “I have a commercial client, in automotive, on Elmwood Avenue in Warwick and every single time there is a major storm he is flooded. He only has $25,000 in coverage and every time he is wiped out. If I was him, I would be getting more coverage.”

Prompted by millions of dollars in losses across the state in March 2010, many Rhode Island home and business owners have since taken out flood-insurance policies or increased the coverage of their existing policies.

But the amount of new policies attributable to the floods, which put streets underwater from the western edge of Providence to Westerly, has been modest and the latest figures show those increases are tapering off now that fair weather has returned.

At the start of February 2010, just before the floods, Rhode Islanders held 15,172 flood-insurance policies, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, the country’s sole flood insurer.

A year later, the number of policies rose 4 percent to 15,769. At the start of this February, there were 16,246 policies, a 3 percent increase over the previous year.

Although emergency-management officials can point to 1,074 new flood-insurance policies written in the state since the floods, insurance coverage had already been on a slow, upward trajectory for years. There was a 2.7 percent increase in policies between 2007 and 2010.

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