Flooding, the country’s most costly disaster, touches every state, from the coast to mountains.
The National Flood Insurance Program helps survivors rebuild — but it’s also deep in debt
The National Flood Insurance Program has paid out nearly 2.5 million flood insurance claims since its inception in 1968, or nearly $70 billion.
But extreme events like Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey have pushed the safety net to its breaking point and saddled the program with over $20.5 billion in debt.
South Carolina has received the tenth highest total payout of any state and generated over 45,000 flood claims dating back to 1975.
Although the most money was paid out along the coast — Charleston, Horry, and Georgetown counties claimed three quarters of the state's total $920 million — homeowners living farther inland have seen their share of flood damages too.
Over one third of all South Carolina flood insurance claims were filed in the last five years.
These claims total over $480 million, which is one third of all money paid out, with inflation, since 1975.
With typically secret data, the Post and Courier matched some of these flood claims with street addresses, identifying about one-third of South Carolina’s most vulnerable properties.
National insurance leaves these homeowners with little choice but to rebuild and wait for the next flood.
This property, in the high-dollar southwest portion of downtown Charleston, also sits on some of the city’s lowest and most vulnerable land. Estimated at $8.2 million in value, its owners made three flood claims between 1989 and 2017.
In all, it’s reaped $379,000 in flood damages, including receiving the maximum amount allowed in its policy in 2017.
Some homeowners have been paid far less, but flood even more frequently. This home, in a West Ashley neighborhood with persistent drainage issues, filed nine claims totalling $40,000 between 1989 and 2008. It’s no longer insured.
Some properties have been paid close to their value in damages. This house backing up to the upper Ashley River has been paid 60 percent of its estimated value of $759,000.
Even in places near wetlands, flooding can strike repeatedly. This property in Hanahan has had eight flood claims between 1989 and 2017, including twice in that last year.
This house along the Intracoastal Waterway flooded eight times by 2001. The waterway’s stretch near Myrtle Beach can overflow when nearby rivers back up with floodwaters.
This property’s policy was dropped some time later, but it has continued to flood.
Data and visuals by Bryan Brussee
Reporting by Chloe Johnson and Stephen Hobbs
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