California has earthquakes, Florida has hurricanes, and Oklahoma has tornadoes, but here in Colorado the major natural disaster is that of flooding. Our massive mountain snowstorms, coupled with massive temperature fluctuations, tend to end up in rivers of snow-melt that might overwhelm the Hoover Dam. In addition to this snowy surplus of water are rain and sleet storms throughout the year. When all is said and done, the Columbine State has seen an average of almost 7 feet of precipitation per year in just 2015-2016! This year, record breaking snowfall in the mountains has not only shut down ski resorts, but creates the possibility for another overflow that may rival the monsoon caused flood of September 2013.

For homeowners, the possibility of another flood disaster, especially for new residents, is a warning to check into or update flood insurance. However, simply calling an agent and saying, “I want to look at my flood protection” isn’t really enough. Just as with any major decision, research is important and a few key questions need to be answered before picking up the phone. Is your home is a flood plain?

Is My Property in a Flood Plain?

Knowing the amount of danger that your home faces can be a large bargaining point with an agent. This is also important information if you are getting ready to purchase a new home. Unlike flat, tornado ridden Kansas, Colorado is as diverse in topography as it is in population. Within a 5 mile stretch, there can be elevation fluctuations ranging from 20 feet to almost 800+ leaving plenty of flood-able areas for houses to be caught up in. So that homeowners, cities, and counties could better understand their relative risk, FEMA has created downloadable maps that delineate flood hazards on an extremely detailed level. To find out how exposed your home may be, visit the FEMA Flood Map Service. From there you can view and download maps specific to your particular area.

How Often Should I Check if I’m in a Flood Plain?

Mountain terrain is dynamic and fluid. What may have been a peaceful valley yesterday could be the new outflow of an entire sierra today. It is important to check your liability at least once a year, especially with new construction in the foothills and in higher mountain towns changing snow-melt flow patterns. River and stream erosion can also cause plains residents to find water at their front door.

Keep in mind that Colorado weather likes to jump back and forth from sunny to snowy and back all within a 24-72 hour period. Anyone who has lived here during the winter and spring has experienced 4+ inches of snow on Friday and have it all melt off by Monday under 60-70 degree sunshine; causing small flash floods, shifting soil, and rolling boulders.

Should You Get Flood Insurance?

I checked and I’m not in a floodplain now. Should I still get flood insurance? – While it’s true that most mortgage companies do require flood insurance for those who do live in a floodplain, it has been said that 25% of flood claims come from residents who were not in a floodplain area. Colorado has many areas that, while not in a danger zone now, are near enough to a floodplain to be affected if torrential conditions occur.

Are All Flood Insurance Plans the Same?

As with any insurance, no two plans are alike. It’s important to shop around for price and coverage. To help understand this, FEMA also created Flood Insurance Rate Maps or FIRMs that anyone can access. Updated yearly, FIRMs can help you to understand how local flood conditions affect insurance rates. Armed with this information, you should be able to find a plan that will work for you.

Staying informed is part of every homeowner’s job. While preparation doesn’t guarantee the safety from a flood, it does safeguard you from unexpected financial risks. For they unprepared, however, a deluge may be ruinous. Buying the proper flood insurance for your home is essential. Colorado is an aquatically fickle state that likes to surprise its residents. Be certain that you are ready for it.