National Flood Insurance Program

On June 30, 1994, a tropical system formed in the Gulf of Mexico. It would be named Alberto. Alberto never reached hurricane strength, making landfall as a minimal tropical storm near Panama City. But the trouble for Americus, Georgia, was anything but minimal.

Flood Victim James Mann says, “Everything was just in chaos.”

What remained of Alberto stalled over southwest Georgia. Mann owns a repair shop in Americus. He wondered if the rain would ever stop. “Constant rain for something like 24 hours. We could see the water just rising during the day.”

Dams burst along the Flint River. And many, like James Mann, were wading in waist deep floodwater inside their homes. “The next day, all of the roads were destroyed. My home was destroyed, business destroyed.”

Mann’s home was a complete loss and things were about to go from bad to worse. The Mann family, like everyone else in their neighborhood, had no flood insurance. “By my home not being in a flood plain, flood insurance wasn’t available.”

Brad Loar heads the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Insurance Program in the southeast. He says towns like Americus don’t participate in the program. “We still have a lot of rural communities, in fact, throughout the southeast, many more of the rural communities are less likely to participate.”

To be a part of the Flood Insurance Program there are standards communities must meet. Often, improving drainage systems and other work costs more than these smaller towns are willing to spend. After Tropical Storm Alberto, Americus found the money. Brad Loar thinks it’s a smart investment. “If you’re in the 100 year flood plain you have a greater chance of being flooded that suffering a fire.”

Seems like an easy sell for most homeowners, but back in Americus, James Mann still isn’t buying. “That’s just like getting the water hose after the fire. I don’t need the insurance.”

He’s betting the money already spent to improve drainage will justify his decision. And even though he had no financial help rebuilding, Mann has no problem watching people in high-risk coastal areas rebuild after storms with his tax money. “I can’t tell an individual where to build their home. A lot of people said I was crazy for putting mine back in the same place. But it’s home. If it happened again tomorrow, I’d build again.”

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