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Preparation and Safety

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Did You Know?

  • Floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States.
  • Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to property.
  • Everyone is at risk due to weather systems, runoff or drainage issues.
  • Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • More than 50 percent of properties in high-risk areas remain unprotected by flood insurance. All properties in high-risk areas need to be protected with flood insurance.
  • More than 20 percent of all flood insurance claims are filed in low-to moderate-risk areas.
  • There is a 26 percent chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage, compared to a nine percent chance of fire for buildings in high-risk flood areas.
  • In the last 50 years, nearly 1,000 flood events have been designated as federally-declared disasters.
  • Nearly 75 percent of all federally-declared disasters over the past five years involved flooding.

To learn more about your flood insurance options, visit FEMA National Flood Insurance Program.

Compare Risks

Your chances of being flooded are much greater than other risks you face daily. If you live in a 100-year floodplain, there is more than a one in four chance you will be flooded during your 30-year mortgage. You are 26 times more likely to experience a flood than a fire during that same 30-year mortgage.

Be Prepared

Flooding occurs when water accumulates faster then it can escape. There are many reasons this happens including naturally occurring depressions, inadequate or ineffective drainage and excessive rainfall.

Because of the large number of lakes, rivers and streams in Polk, flooding can become a big problem very quickly. Your ability to prepare for this depends on your understanding of where the water is likely to come from and how it is likely to affect you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I live on or near a lake, river or stream?
  • Do I live in a low area that has the potential to collect water from the surrounding area?
  • Do I know of any drainage problems in my area?
  • Has there been any past flooding in my area?

Flood Insurance

Flood Insurance is available in Polk County through property insurance agents and the National Flood Insurance Program and can help you recover from a disaster. It protects you from the financial devastation caused by floods. Even a few inches of water can bring thousands of dollars in repair and restoration costs. Most homeowners insurance does not cover floods.

Flood insurance is single peril insurance, sold separately from homeowner’s insurance. Flood insurance protects against losses to buildings and their contents, not the land surrounding them. The coverage applies whether the flooding results from heavy or prolonged rains, coastal storm surge, blocked storm drainage systems or other causes. To be considered a flood, the waters must cover at least two acres or affect at least two properties.


Flood insurance is available both within and outside of floodplains. Your property’s flood risk is shown on flood hazard maps. Different types of policies are available depending on your flood risk.

If you live in a high-risk area, you will need a Standard Policy. Most mortgage lenders will require that you have such a policy before they will approve your loan.

Outside of high-risk areas, flood insurance is also available, usually at lower cost. A Preferred Risk Policy covers both a home and its contents, with premiums as low as $119 per year. While you aren’t federally required to have flood insurance in a low-to-moderate risk area that does not mean that you won’t ever need it. Large floods often extend beyond the boundaries of high-risk areas and smaller floods occur outside high-risk areas as well. In fact, a quarter of all flood insurance claims come from low-to-moderate risk areas.

Waiting Period

There is usually a 30-day waiting period after applying and paying the premium, before the flood insurance policy becomes effective.

There is no waiting period when flood insurance is required by a lender for any purpose. Lenders may require flood insurance for a new loan, when a loan amount is increased or extended or after a mortgage portfolio review shows that the building is in a high-risk area.

There is a one-day waiting period for a new policy or when additional amounts of coverage are required by the lender during the 13-month period following map revisions. This applies when the map revision changes the structure’s designation from a non-high-risk area to a high-risk area.

Cost and Coverage

Flood insurance is sold and serviced by private insurers, and backed by the federal government. More then 85 companies sell flood insurance. Often the same insurance agent who wrote your homeowner’s insurance policy can help you obtain flood insurance.

Flood insurance costs the same wherever you purchase it, because the rates are set by the National Flood Insurance Program.

Flood insurance covers both homes and businesses. With residential coverage you can get up to $250,000 of insurance to protect your home and up to $100,000 to protect its contents. If you are located in (or moving into) a high-risk area, federally regulated or insured lenders will require you to have flood insurance for the amount remaining on your mortgage, or $250,000, whichever is lower. With commercial coverage, you can get up to $500,000 of insurance to protect your building and up to $500,000 to protect its contents.

Be flood smart. Find out about your property and contact an insurance agent by visiting FEMA National Flood Insurance Program.

Before the Flood

  • Keep your automobile fueled; after a flood, gas stations may not be able to operate pumps for several days.
  • Store drinking water in clean bathtubs and in various containers.
  • Keep a stock of food that requires little cooking and no refrigeration.
  • Keep first aid supplies on hand.
  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio, emergency cooking equipment and flashlights in working order.
  • Know the location of the Polk County public shelters near you.
  • Become familiar with the Polk County evacuation routes.

During the Flood

  • Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, streams, rivers, etc.
  • Avoid already flooded and high velocity flow areas.
  • Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is ankle deep, STOP. Turn around and go another way.
  • If driving, be aware that the road bed may not be intact under flood waters. Turn around and go another way. Never drive through flooded roadways.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

After the Flood

  • If fresh food has come in contact with flood waters, throw it out.
  • Boil drinking water before using.
  • Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority.
  • Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital.
  • Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
  • Stay away from power lines and electrical wires.
  • Turn off your electricity and gas when you return home.
  • Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
  • Use flashlights, not lanterns, torches or matches, to examine buildings.
  • Report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.
  • Look before you step and watch for animals, especially snakes.

Getting Updated Information

For up to date information on severe weather, including flooding, please tune to local media stations including: Bay News Nine (Cable Channel 9), WONN 1230 AM, and WPCV 97.5 FM. The National Weather Service continually monitors local weather conditions. If major flooding is anticipated within the county, NOAA will broadcast notices on the NOAA Weather Radio. These notices will also be broadcast through television and standard radio stations. They are intended to help residents prepare for the possibility of severe flooding in the neighborhood.

Warning times for these events may be as long as five days for hurricanes, down to one to two hours notice for flash floods and urban advisories. The key is to keep aware of these notices when watching, listening to or reading the various media sources.

Stream Gauges

Being able to understand where the water might come from is an important part of getting out of its way.

Stream gauges provide stream flow information for a wide variety of uses including flood prediction, water management and allocation, engineering design, research, operation of locks and dams, and recreational safety and enjoyment. These stream gauges are operated by the U.S. Geological Service and their partners, such as the Southwest Florida Water Management District. More than 90 percent of these stream gauges electronically record and transmit stream flow information by satellite, which is then uploaded to the Internet in near real-time.

Take a look at the stream gauges to see if a lake, river or stream near you has a gauge that can be used to help protect you, your property and your family.

Potential flooding sources and areas that have flooded in the past:

  • Bowlegs Creek
  • Polly Creek
  • Gator Creek
  • Saddle Creek
  • Itchepackesassa
  • Peace Creek Drainage Canal
  • Upper and Lower Peace River
  • Lake Hancock
  • Lake Seward
  • Saddle Bag
  • Lake Parker
  • Lake Belle
  • Winston Creek
  • Wilson Creek
  • Crooked Lake
  • Reedy Lake