State sets up new system to find, buy private flood insurance

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) - If you have flood insurance already, you may have noticed premiums going up.

Now Pennsylvania is working to provide cheaper options for property owners.

On an average day, the tiny creek off Cocoa Avenue in Derry Township, Dauphin County, looks pretty insignificant -- or, often, completely dry.

But rewind to 2011, and an onslaught of rain from Tropical Storm Lee inundated Hershey and the surrounding areas.

"It had nowhere to go," said Michael Megoulas. "It just welled up here and it came across." Water covered the road and seeped into houses.

Megoulas, who lives across the street from the creek, was up to his knees in his basement.

"There was stuff that had to be thrown out," he said. "I had lost a lot of personal stuff that was on the floor."

Flood plain maps were redrawn; now he's in one. His mortgage company told him he needed flood insurance.

The price from the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, the most common plan provider, was $2,700 a year. His insurance agent found it privately for two grand less -- a total of just $718 annually.

At a news conference Tuesday outside Megoulas' home, the state's insurance commissioner said she wants more people to save money.

"The NFIP certainly remains an option," Teresa Miller said, "but I want consumers to know that there are now private flood insurance options that may be a much better deal for them."

Congress recently cut subsidies for the NFIP, so it's more expensive out-of-pocket. Now, Miller said, private companies are stepping up.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department set up a website (at no extra cost to the state) to let property owners shop around and compare what different providers will actually cover.

You can browse the new flood insurance site here.

"I want them to know that there's actually alternatives out there," she said.

With melting snow and warm days on the way, high water is a threat. It takes time to get coverage, but Miller advised it's never too early to prepare for the next time.

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