Why all Hampton Roads homeowners should consider flood insurance

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (WAVY) — Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean officially begins on Thursday. This week, 10 On Your Side is helping you prepare with storm predictions and what you need to have ready to protect your home and family when a storm hits.

Today, we are talking about a tough lesson learned from last season. Since the night of October 8, Marie and Steve Gensel have been trying to keep their heads above water.

“I saw 30 years worth of stuff just gone,” says Marie, shaking her head. Hurricane Matthew flooded their home. Now they’re drowning in bills.

“No, no flood insurance, didn’t get a penny.” Steve says.

Steve, a retired Coast Guard Master Chief, and Marie, a Breast Cancer survivor, are fighters.

“The hardest day was when I saw a four ton dumpster leave my house, ” Marie continues. “As it went around the corner I realized that it’s all gone, it’s just gone.”

Evelyn Atkinson can relate, “I was walking around in a daze the whole time,” she tells 10 On Your Side. After 50 years in her Windsor Woods home she, and husband Clifford, are basically starting from scratch.

“We lost just about everything he brought from overseas and things we inherited,” Atkinson says.

These couples are among more than 250 Virginia Beach homeowners blindsided by Hurricane Matthew, according to City Emergency Manager Erin Sutton.

“What we found was about a 20% coverage, which is not good,” says Sutton. That means 80% had no flood insurance. The homes were outside of the flood zone.

“We didn’t think we needed. We had the house paid off and we didn’t think anything like this would ever happen,” Evelyn Atkinson says.

FEMA was able to help some folks. The average check was around $7,000. That left the Gensel and Atkinson families on the hook for about $80,000 more.

“We are a coastal community and we get flooding on a very regular basis and the best advice I can offer is to get flood insurance,” Sutton says.

According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America that will run the average homeowner about $400 a year for a house not in a flood zone. However, Saundra Broadus-Hernandez told 10 On Your Side she pays upwards of $2,000 a year for her policy.

“It was just a blessing that we had all the coverage,” Broadus-Hernandez says.

From floor-to-ceiling everything is brand new in her home. Insurance didn’t cover all of her upgrades but without it…” Um I don’t even want to think about it,” she says shaking her head.

” I don’t have the money for it now that’s the catch so every time a storm comes this way, I’m scared,” Steve explains.

Unlike homeowners insurance, which you can pay in installments, the government-backed flood insurance program requires payment in full once a year. It is a gamble but just consider the cost if you lose.