Humphreys County votes to opt into National Flood Insurance Program after deadly floods

It’s a problem we keep hearing from so many in Humphreys County. Confusion over whether they’re eligible for flood insurance.
Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:39 PM CDT
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WAVERLY, Tenn. (WSMV) - With water rising every second, Samuel Deavers, his fiancée and two little boys didn’t know if they’d make it out of their Humphreys County home alone.

“We decided that it better be best to go up to our loft and then I would sit down with the flashlight waiting for rescue to come,” Deavers said.

When the waters receded, figuring out how he’s going to pay for the floors, appliances and his entire home became his next obstacle.

“I called my insurance company and filed a claim for a flood. They told me that I was not covered under a flood and they would not send anybody out and pretty much not waste their time,” Deavers said.

“It still affects me. It’s starting to sink in,” Johnnie Little said.

Little battles the same stress, cleaning up without the protection of flood insurance.

“They came down. They were very polite. They walked through the house. They took pictures, stayed here for about an hour, and all they said is, we’ll do what we can, you don’t have flood insurance,” Little said.

Prior to the flood, both men were told they don’t need flood insurance because they don’t live in a flood plain. News4 contacted both Little and Deavers’ insurance companies.

State Farm told News4 it couldn’t discuss Little’s situation for privacy reasons, but it is looking into the claim.

While Farm Bureau of Tennessee, Deaver’s insurance company, said generally speaking, property insurance contracts don’t cover floods. Farm Bureau said it typically refers customers to the National Flood Insurance Program offered by the federal government.

But there’s another hurdle. News4 contacted FEMA to ask about the program and found out the cities of Waverly and McEwen are part of the National Flood Insurance Program. However, Humphreys County, as a whole, was not.

Deavers said his home sits about a quarter of a mile outside the McEwen city limits, meaning he wouldn’t benefit from the flood insurance.

News4 asked Humphreys County Executive Jessie Wallace why the county opted out of the insurance program and if he felt that was a mistake that the county made.

“They didn’t opt out, they just never opted in,” Wallace said. “I feel like we should’ve joined, yes I do. As a matter of fact, we’ve had six nationally declared disasters since 2010, none of those included an individual assistance piece, so individuals weren’t qualified for FEMA relief. Now it would’ve made a difference in terms of subsidized flood insurance, and for that reason I think it would’ve been a good idea.”

The county has now reconsidered, recently voting to participate in the program, which could mean more help for the most recent flood victims.

“FEMA offers a retroactive activation for six months, so damaged incurred by this flood on Aug. 21 will be covered under the FEMA benefits plan that is funded by the Stafford Act,” Wallace said.

While this will help these victims, Matthew Sanders, senior manager with the Flood Prepared Communities Program at PEW Charitable Trust, said a bigger solution is needed.

“Flooding is really a program that requires an all hands on deck solution. You know, what I think you’re seeing, is a growing trend across the country where a number of states are identifying this as a common problem and are really putting forth mandates to develop comprehensive statewide flood plans to hopefully be able to get ahead of this problem before it gets any worse than it currently is,” Sanders said.

Little and Deavers hope that’s the case, not just for them, but anyone facing the ripple effects of Mother Nature’s fury.

“I know there’s a stipulation if a plane falls on your house, we’ll cover that. If a locomotive runs through your house, we’ll cover that,” Little said. “But when it comes to little things like flood, I mean, that happens to all kinds of people.”

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