Resources & Insights

Flood Risk Higher Across U.S. Than Previously Thought

July 9, 2020

Matt Genova,
President, Personal Lines

4-minute read

About 195,000 properties are at risk of flooding in Colorado at the moment, a number that grows to slightly above 200,000 over the next 30 years.

That’s according to a new website created by First Street Foundation, a group of academics and experts who compiled nationwide data showing that flood risk across the U.S. is far greater than government estimates show.

You can check the risk at your own address by plugging it into that website. The area of Colorado where the risk is expected to rise the most over the next several decades is, ironically enough, named Edgewater, a small town just west of Denver’s Sloan Lake.

First Street forecast a 22.8% increase in the number of Edgewater properties at risk.

Edgewater’s flooding issues are well-known. Here’s how the Edgewater Echo, a local online news outlet focused on the community, put it in one of its articles:

“Because of its location in a small valley between the hills of Wheat Ridge and Lakewood, Edgewater has had issues with flooding throughout its history. One of the first infrastructure improvements to the city in the early 1900s were boardwalks to keep pedestrians out of the mud.”

Flooding in Colorado, of course, isn’t as severe as in, say, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., or New Orleans. But plenty of Coloradoans can remember the 2013 storm that dumped 17 inches of rain on parts of the state over a three-day period.

FEMA’s maps

Maps maintained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency have long drawn questions about their accuracy. Part of the problem is that FEMA’s maps do not account for flooding caused by intense rainfall, which has been a growing problem.

FEMA said First Street’s initiative would “complement” its own efforts.

“We know there is no perfect science to predict flooding,” a FEMA spokeswoman said. “The Flood Factor product may help property owners with the critical decisions they must make and purchase necessary insurance.”

Indeed, First Street’s work suggests there are tens of thousands of properties nationwide facing flood risks not shown on government maps.

We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.

If your house is on a hill, going without flood insurance is probably just fine. But given how inexpensive flood coverage can be, that alone may be good reason to consider it.

Same goes if you live in an area where new homes are going up faster than the infrastructure can accommodate it, where drainage systems seem to be overwhelmed anytime the rains are heavier than normal.

It’s also a good idea to consider buying a flood insurance policy if your house could be flooded by melting snow, an overflowing creek or pond or water running down a steep hill.

Your homeowner’s policy, by the way, covers rain damage but it does not cover flooding in your home. That’s why you’ll need a flood policy, which is a standalone policy, with different damage limits and separate premiums.

And don’t wait for a flood warning on the evening news to buy a policy. There is often a 30-day waiting period before the coverage takes effect.

Floods, as FEMA will tell you, can happen anywhere. More than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk flood zones.

Matt Genova is the president of CCIG’s Personal Lines department. Reach him at or at 720-330-7936.

CCIG is a Denver-area insurance, employee benefits and surety brokerage with clients nationwide. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We help you manage your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.

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