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    Imminent Horizons
    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Connecticut flood insurance rates are the highest in the U.S.

    Editor’s note: Dan Stark, a student in University of Connecticut Professor Christine Woodside’s environmental journalism class, reported and wrote this story during the spring semester.

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    As the sea level rises and climate-related natural disasters become more frequent and powerful in Connecticut and nationwide, the cost of flood insurance rates have increased.

    This has resulted in Connecticut having one of the highest average annual rates for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) at $1,590, which is well above the national average of $888.

    According to several insurance-rate resources, Connecticut usually falls in the top five highest-rate states or U.S. territories. The other most expensive are Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and the territory of Guam.

    “The incidents of loss and flooding are getting more frequent and more severe, meaning risks have increased,” said Peter Kochenburger, former executive director at the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut School of Law. “It’s gotten very expensive in some jurisdictions because more people have to buy flood insurance than ever before, and those rates are going way up.”

    Homeowners in at-risk areas with mortgages are required to purchase flood insurance in Connecticut. This particularly affects homeowners living in what the Federal Emergency Management Agency designates as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). It creates a new expense for homeowners who previously didn’t have to worry about their flood risk under old flood maps, but now have to pay over $1,000, on average.

    It is not mandatory for all Connecticut homeowners to purchase flood insurance. To learn which properties are in flood hazard areas, search FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center at https://msc.fema.gov/portal/home. Enter an address and the map result will show if the property lies in one of the zones.

    Historical ocean data shows that the sea level around the world has been rising steadily since 1900. The total so far is more than 8 inches, and projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, based on greenhouse gas emissions and ocean warming, predict various scenarios of sea-level rise from 13 to 20 inches.

    Kochenburger added that as sea levels continue to rise,  FEMA will continually update the country’s flood zone maps, which calculate the risk of floods. FEMA requires that these maps be updated every five years, though the agency states that these maps could be revised whenever “new and more accurate information becomes available.”

    Groton is one of the most at-risk areas for flooding in Connecticut. Under current flood maps, FEMA designates a majority of that community’s coastline with Long Island Sound as one of the two most at-risk of flood hazard zones: either Zone VE or Zone AE.

    A Zone VE is defined by FEMA as an area “where wave action and fast-moving water can cause extensive damage during a base flood event,” while a Zone AE is defined as an area with “at least a 1% annual chance of being flooded, but where wave heights are less than 3 feet.”

    Many of Groton’s residential areas are categorized as Zone X, which have a lower risk of flooding than Zone VE and AE, but not a 0% risk. As sea levels keep rising, however, these areas could soon join their more at-risk counterparts in Zone VE and AE.

    One of the most at-risk areas in Groton is the Groton-New London Airport. Located between the Poquonnock River and Baker Cove, nearly the entire airport is classified as a Zone VE or AE, including all of both runways. The airport has seen an increase in flooding, which will only continue due to sea level rise.

    Connecticut Airport Authority spokesman Brian Spyros confirmed that Groton-New London Airport, like any coastal property, carries flood insurance coverage. He declined to elaborate on whether their coverage or costs have changed due to rising sea levels.

    For further information: · FEMA flood map updates: https://www.fema.gov/faq/frequency-updating-flood-maps · FEMA zone definitions: https://www.fema.gov/flood-maps/coastal/insurance-rate-maps · Groton flood zone map: https://maps.groton-ct.gov/apps/FEMAFloodMaps/ · CT flood insurance requirements: https://ctmetro.org/regional-planning/environmental-planning/flood-protection/

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