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Government shutdown could cause some Southeast Texans national flood insurance premiums to skyrocket
BRIDGE CITY - by Lauren Huet
The government shutdown might cause a number of families along the Southeast Texas coast to pay skyrocketing national flood insurance premiums. Some members of Congress wanted to delay the rising rates and search for answers, but the shutdown changed everything.
Hurricane Ike flooded most of Bridge City in 2008. Now, it's responsible for high rates that may rise as high as the water from the storm.
Bridge City homeowner Charles Uzzle remembered the damage the storm caused.
"Me and my wife stood here," said Uzzle. "I had water over the slab [of the house] for four days. The third day we came in and it was about knee deep. We looked at each other--'you want to stay here?' 'Ya.' 'Okay, this ain't happening again. We going that way,'" he said, pointing up.
Which is exactly where they went. Uzzle and his wife rebuilt their home and elevated it above the water's highest point during Ike. However, if it's not up to the Flood Act's standards, even he could pay a higher premium.
The mayor of Bridge City, Kirk Roccaforte, said the increased insurance premiums are over the top.
"There's some increased rates of three to four thousand percent. It's not even affordable," said Roccaforte.
FEMA rolled out new flood maps to reflect the storm surge during Ike. These maps place 85 percent of Bridce City in a flood zone.
"And in doing so are making our homes really devalued," said Roccaforte, "because of the fact that the insurance cost will increase to the point where the homeowner will really not be able to afford the cost of that insurance."
Which makes some homes unsellable.
"We've had people even looking at going ahead and selling their home because they're afraid of what's going to happen in the future," said Roccaforte, "and they're home will not be sellable based on the flood insurance costs."
Roccaforte said he's seen ill effects from the Biggert-Waters Act since June.
"Our city cannot survive some of these rates that they're trying to do," he said. "It's just killed our growth, it's slowed down our housing, it's kind of stalemated the city at the moment."
Realtors tell home owners to prepare for changes.
Wilma Horner with ReMax Realty advised people to, "get themselves an elevation report, find out where they're at, get with their representative, fight this. Get with their insurance company, find out what's involved. Don't sit in their home and say it's not going to happen to me because it could easily happen to you."
Even if rates rise, Charles Uzzle said he wants to stay.
"I mean, I've been here for all my life pretty much," said Uzzle, "and can't see a reason to move. I've been a lot of places but it's always good to come home."