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Experts say B.C. rainstorms highlight increasing flood risks and need to prepare

Insurers say flood damage is already by far the most expensive type of extreme weather risk
A vehicle is submerged in flood waters along a road in Abbotsford, B.C., Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Experts say record rainfall in British Columbia is highlighting the increasing risks of flood damage and the need for people to consider both insurance and preventive measures.

“Effectively what we’re seeing in B.C. is another manifestation of climate change in action,” said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.

“Going forward, precipitation events are going to be more extreme in nature and by association more costly.”

He said that flood damage is already by far the most expensive type of extreme weather risk, particularly basement flooding which costs on average $43,000 to repair.

While those living close to water are generally at higher risk, he said it’s something everyone should be aware of because increasingly intense rainfall can create problems far from where it’s expected.

“Someone should not think that just because they’re not close to standing or running water or on a floodplain that they’re free of risk. They’re not.”

To better understand the risks to a home, Feltmate suggests checking in with a local conservation authority to access the most updated flood risk maps.

Flood insurance, which only generally became available in Canada after the destructive Calgary flood of 2013, is becoming increasingly popular, but is also helping push up insurance premiums. Feltmate said home insurance premiums have climbed about 20 to 25 per cent on average in the past six years, with about half of that increase coming from flood coverage costs.

Linda Dolan, owner of Alport Insurance Agencies Inc. in Port Alberni, B.C., says that many people are adding flood insurance to their coverage when they can, but that companies are being selective on who they’re offering coverage to.

She said premiums can be high, and coverage limited for those in higher risk areas, while some homeowners can’t get flood insurance at all.

“The unfortunate thing with flood insurance, is if you’re in a high risk zone, it’s either not available to you or the price is so high that it’s not affordable.”

She said that coverage for landslides and ocean swells, which could also see increases from extreme weather, are still generally not covered by any policies.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada, which has set up mobile pavilions in heavily hit communities in B.C. to respond to questions, says almost half of the province has taken on flood insurance, while an estimated five per cent of B.C. homeowners aren’t eligible for coverage.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: VIDEO: Woman captures aerial footage of flood devastation in Abbotsford