With hurricane season underway, state Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa is urging Maine homeowners to purchase federal flood insurance even if they live outside federally designated flood zones.

Cioppa noted that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an increase in the number and severity of hurricanes and major storms during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially started Monday.

He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that in recent years, hurricanes have caused above-average flooding, with more than 40 percent of flood claims submitted from outside high-risk flood areas between 2014 and 2018.

“No matter where we live, it’s important that we all understand our flood risk, and what it could cost us,” Cioppa said in a statement. “Don’t wait until there’s an imminent threat. Now is the time to call your agent to get a quote and purchase coverage. You can purchase a flood insurance policy at any time, but there’s usually a 30-day waiting period for coverage to take effect.”

Mortgage lenders generally require homes in flood zones to have flood coverage, but it’s usually an optional purchase for all others. Cioppa said many people assume incorrectly that their basic homeowners or renters insurance policy will cover damage from flooding, but flood coverage must almost always be purchased separately.

A homeowners or renters policy may pay for water damage inside a house, such as damage from an ice dam or a burst pipe, he said, but it will usually not pay for unusual or rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters, such as those caused by snow melt or torrential, soaking rain.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs between June 1 and Nov. 30 each year.

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