HELENA, MT — As winter weather continues to dump large amounts of snow throughout Montana, Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale is advising Montanans to consider flood insurance and start preparing for floods right now, before it’s too late.

Flood insurance policies typically do not take effect until 30 days after purchase, so people should plan ahead for properties at risk of flooding.

“We’re getting a ton of snow throughout the state right now, and the cold temperatures are creating ice jams on the Madison River and other places, increasing the risk of imminent flooding for people living near rivers and streams ,” Rosendale said. “Waiting until all this snow starts to melt is too late for purchasing flood insurance. Montanans—including those who might not usually experience flooding—need to start planning now.”

“As we saw last year in Missoula, Helena, and other places, flooding can wreak havoc on people’s homes and other property. Because of the waiting period on flood insurance policies, everyone needs to be looking at their options right now, before the weather warms up,” Rosendale added.

Flooding is the number one natural disaster in the United States and there are many misconceptions about flood insurance. There is no guarantee that floods will be declared a disaster to open up federal assistance. Most homeowner’s policies do not cover flood insurance, and about 20 to 25 percent of all flood claims come outside of a high-risk flood area.

“Everyone should consider themselves susceptible to flooding and take steps to be prepared for that risk,” Rosendale said. “Every property owner should consider their options to purchase standalone flood coverage to protect their assets.”

Just a few inches of water can cost thousands of dollars in damage to walls, floors, furniture, carpets and other personal property. The average flood claim in Montana is nearly $13,000. Statistics indicate there is a one-in-four chance that a homeowner will experience a flood over a span of 30 years. 25 percent of flood insurance claims come from moderate to low risk flood areas.

Most flood policies are secured from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP program is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which serves as the federal backstop for flood disasters. There is typically a 30 day waiting period when purchasing a new policy before it becomes effective, which can be a factor as flood season approaches.

Montana also has more private flood insurance options than ever. In 2015, the Montana legislature passed House Bill 94, which opened the marketplace to consumers by allowing a multi-peril insurance product that protects against flood, landslide, and earthquake. These programs are often more affordable and can provide better insurance protection to consumers. Many of these policies have only a 10 day waiting period before becoming effective.

“The time to purchase flood insurance for 2019 is now,” Rosendale said. “Waiting until you see the water rushing is too late to be thinking about flood insurance.”

More information on the available options for flood insurance is available on the CSI website here.

For a more comprehensive overview of flood insurance, visit www.FloodSmart.gov.