NewsLocal News


Lack of flood insurance plays major role in slow rebuild after historic flood

Posted at 9:26 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 22:26:46-04

Historic flooding didn't just leave homes in ruins and residents displaced; the disaster also left an emotional toll on those wondering if they could have done more to protect their homes by purchasing flood insurance.

"We didn't think it was ever going to flood again and then it finally crept up on us and got us,” said Sonny Wormser, a flood victim from Sand Springs.

His way of thinking was common for many residents in the Town and Country neighborhood. In fact, the Oklahoma Insurance Department said 90 percent of people in this area did not have flood insurance.

"[It’s been] 33 years since the last flood in '86, so we didn't think we would ever need it and we couldn't really afford it,” Wormser said.

Many homeowners said the insurance either felt unnecessary, was too expensive, or just plain confusing.

"They were told they're in a 100-year or 500-year flood plan, which is really confusing terminology,” said Rusty Gunn, pastor at Church That Matters.

Gunn said many residents are now realizing living in a flood plain means purchasing flood insurance.

"Everyone needs it out there,” Gunn said.

But for many, like Wormer and his partner, Kelli Varnell, it's too little too late. Their flood damaged home is still a work in progress one year later.

"We're living on the other side of the river now in a rent house and we are in the process of building this little by little."

Gunn said the couple is one of the family’s most behind when it comes to rebuilding after the flood.

“The FEMA money is not enough to really substantiate anything for them,” he said.

Once the work is complete, flood insurance is mandatory.

"They told us once we move back in, we are required to have it,” Wormser said. “So, we are not sure how much it costs, we heard it was expensive still."

There are two things that can affect the price: How far your home is above the ground, and where it sits in a flood plain. If your house floods once and you don't maintain flood insurance after that, you’re out of luck.

"Once you receive federal help from FEMA, if you don't maintain flood insurance, there won't be assistance for you the next time,” said Glen Mulready, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner.

For many, the cost of either rebuilding or purchasing insurance is a monetary headache, but there are still options for assistance.

"So, there are four case managing agencies within the state, and each case managing agency has taken on a certain number of counties,” said Marylynn Lufkin, Catholic Charities director of Disaster Assistance.

Catholic Charities is still assessing homeowners’ situations and connecting them to available resources. If you haven't heard from a case manager, you will need to reach out.

"They can call 211 to be able to connect with the proper case managing agency who is handling that area,“ Lufkin said.

If you're unsure whether you live in a flood plain, check with FEMA by clicking here.

The agency has an easy to use tool that shows if your address is in a flood zone. It also shows the risk level your home faces.

Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.

Download our free app for Apple and Android and Kindle devices.

Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines and Daily Forecasts.

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook