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Preparing for the unimaginable: Reflecting on the Michigan dam collapse

Updated: Sep 29

We are accustomed to preparing for natural disasters, including flooding. Coastal residents install storm shutters as hurricanes bear down. Before a major snowstorm, homeowners in the northern half of the country ensure their generators have enough fuel.

Yet not every natural disaster is so predictable. Recent flooding caused by a dam collapse in Midland, Michigan did not cause any casualties, but it resulted in damage and displacement that devastated an entire community.

On May 19, Michigan experienced heavy rainfall which led to the failure of two dams. The breech triggered record-setting flooding, with a 2,000-acre lake draining in an hour, discharging more than 50,600 cubic feet of water per second and forcing over 10,000 area residents to evacuate. 2,500 buildings were overrun with water, causing an estimated $200 million in damages.

Although prompt evacuations ensured that there was no loss of life, the flooding still had a devastating impact on residents. Many of the damaged buildings were homes,150 of which were completely destroyed, while another 790 sustained major damages. Tragically, only eight percent of those who suffered flood damage to their home had flood insurance to cover their losses. Leaving the other 92 percent unable to recoup losses because they were unprepared for the storm.

We’re all grateful that life wasn’t lost in this flood, a testament to thorough emergency planning. However, a disaster like this highlights the importance of securing flood insurance well in advance of potential floods, especially in areas that are prone to heavy rain.

Flood insurance can cover everything from clothes and appliances to the very walls and foundation of a home. In the face of unpredictable circumstances, flood insurance can offer key protection to help homeowners restore their lives. The flooding in Midland is a somber reminder that the best time to secure flood insurance is long before you think you will need it.

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