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Woodland Hills preps for possible flooding

SALT LAKE CITY — Less than two weeks after wildfires ravaged their homes, Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge residents are getting ready for another disaster. Flash floods are expected to hit tomorrow, with the worst falling on the very homes that were hit hardest by the wildfires.

Utah Emergency Management’s Kathy Holder got ahold of KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic to spread the word about how people in the Woodland area can make sure they’re covered if the flooding damages their homes.

Homeowners insurance, Holder warned, will not cover damages caused by flooding. She’s doing everything she can to make sure Utahns know how they can make sure their homes are covered before it’s too late.

Woodland Hills wildfires lead to floods

Residents of Elk Ridge and Woodland Hills know how important preparation can be. Just weeks ago, the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek fires burned more than 120,000 acres near their homes.

By all rights, the fires should have left their community devastated. Thanks to the tireless work of firefighters and members of the community, however, not a single home was lost.

But the worst is far from over. The fires left a gaping burn scar across the mountain, which puts their communities at a serious risk for flooding.

The community has been working hard to keep each other safe. So far, they have filled an estimated 15,000 sandbags to help keep their friends and neighbors safe before tomorrow’s flash flood warning.

“This community connects. They get together, they work together,” Woodland Hills resident Mike Morris told KSL. “I’ve never been in a community that’s this connected.”

Homeowners insurance does not cover flooding

The aftermath of Hurricane Florence

The aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Fayetteville, N.C.. Sept. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

People in the Woodland Hills area, however, still need to prepare for the worst, according to Utah Emergency Management. They’ve taken to Twitter and contacted KSL to make sure residents know that, unless they opted in for flood insurance, they will not be covered for damages to their homes from flooding.

“This is something I really want all Utahns to be aware of,” Utah Emergency Management’s Kathy Holder told Dave & Dujanovic.

The risk of flooding damage, she says, is a very real threat. “26% of individuals, during a 30-year mortgage, will experience some form of flooding.”

The community’s best bet to stay safe, Holder says, is to sign up for FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. However, the program wasn’t available to residents in the Woodland Hills area until just today.

“It actually was not available to them recently because their communities had not joined the national flood insurance program,” Holder explained. “As soon as I realized … I contacted their mayor there and I got them the paperwork to join.”

Last-second coverage

Woodland Hills during the mudslide that, three years ago, forced 14 families out of their homes. Aug. 14, 2015. (Ravell Call/Deseret News)

While most insurance plans require a 30-day waiting period to sign up, Holder says that there is still time for people in Woodland Hills area to get last-second coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.

“As of this morning, they can go get their flood insurance,” Holder told Dave & Dujanovic. “If that flood comes off that burn scar, then that 30-day waiting period can be waived.”

The program allows last-second coverage, Holder says, because it is backed by FEMA, who have an obligation to make sure everyone has a policy to cover flood risks.

“It’s pretty much the only way that people are going to be able to mitigate and cover their risks,” Holder says.

How to sign up

The National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance program will allow last-second coverage for flood damage. (FEMA)

Holder joked that she “feels like an insurance policy salesman” talking about the plan. No matter the tone, though, she is not spreading the word about the National Flood Insurance Program for her own profit or as part of a paid advertisement.

Instead, she feels that this is a way to do her part to help the people in Woodland Hills. She is worried that people who have survived the wildfires might still lose their homes to this flood.

She personally contacted the mayor of Woodland Hills and FEMA to make sure that people could sign up for this program, wanting to make sure that they were able to recover from any damages to their homes.

A plan with $80,000 of coverage costs between $90-$120 annually, according to Holder’s estimates, while a $250,000 plan would cost between $400-$500.

Anyone looking for last-second coverage can learn more about the program and sign up by visiting Floodsmart.gov.

More to the story

You can hear our full conversation with Kathy Holder on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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