Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Howard Hanson dam flood maps: Lower flood risk, but we still recommend flood coverage

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has created several "inundation maps" showing possible areas of flooding -- and how much each would be underwater -- if the Corps has to release more water than usual from behind the weakened Howard Hanson dam.

The Corps, which had earlier put the odds of severe flooding as high as 1 in 3, now says that extensive work to strengthen the abutment has lowered those odds to 1 in 25. Further work this month should improve those odds.

There are four versions of the maps, projecting how things would look in the Green River Valley below the dam at each of four release levels:
-13,900 cubic feet per second
-17,600 cfs
-19,500 cfs
-and the worst case scenario: 25,000 cfs.

The yellow areas are light flooding -- 2-3 feet of water -- and the green areas are deeper: 6-10'. The lowland areas where water would pool more deeply than that are marked in shades of blue and light purple.

Hints for navigating the maps: Use the zoom tool (yes, the little magnifying glass) to get in close enough to see road names, streams, etc. You can zoom in quite a bit. (Zoom out by holding down your keyboard's CRTL button and clicking your mouse.)

If you need more detailed maps, click on this link and go to the "Large Format" versions of the maps. Even over a fast Internet connection, these large files can take a minute or more to load.

Although the flood risk is apparently lower than it was, our office is still recommending that people in the area get flood coverage. (We are the state of Washington's insurance regulatory agency.) The National Flood Insurance Program offers coverage for homes and businesses, although businesses will have to find other, private carriers for things like business-interruption coverage or large-value properties.

The federal flood coverage is sold through local brokers and agents, so check first with your regular agent. If they don't sell it -- and not all do -- you can get a list of local sellers through National Flood Insurance Program website or by calling them at 1-888-379-9531.

And don't put it off. The federal coverage doesn't take effect until 30 days after the policy is written.

And more insurance news: Misgivings among some Democrats over health reform bills, and AIG's CEO in better days lambastes his successors

A couple more key insurance stories today:

The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports that "the White House is facing a growing revolt from some Democrats and analysts who say the bills Congress is considering do not fulfill President Obama's promise to slow the runaway rise in health care spending."

And Business Week has a pretty interesting Q&A with former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg. It's always easy after a corporate meltdown, of course, to be the guy saying that you would have done things differently. But Greenberg, who left the company under pressure back in 2005, really takes up the cudgel:
I know for a fact that [Martin] Sullivan told everybody: "Just do everything you want, get as much business as you can, and don't worry about a goddam thing." Everything they did disregarded risk management. That's not the way you run a company. And the board sat on its tail. Frank Zarb did nothing. He was the goddam chairman. What did he do?

Insurance news: Clinton argues that nation can't afford NOT to fix health care, insurers profits not as high as many think, and CA gets closer to pay-as-you-drive auto coverage

Insurance news today:

The Associated Press reports that Bill Clinton is urging Senate Dems to pass health care: "My argument was that this is an economic imperative," Clinton said after the closed-door meeting, citing ever-higher medical costs and nearly 50 million uninsured.

ABC News has a story looking at how much money health insurers have been making, headlining it "Health insurance profits: Not so outrageous after all?"  Story includes interesting data, with a breakdown of how recent investment losses affected profits. (And a reader hastens to point out that here in Washington state, the major health plans are not-for-profits.)

Speaking of health insurers, the Philadelphia Inquirer has a story about doctors unhappy with insurers. From it:
"My colleagues and I spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone arguing with insurance companies for therapies we know are right. It's reached a breaking point," said John Maris, chief of the oncology division at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
California, meanwhile, is getting closer to Pay-As-You-Drive insurance, Cars.com reports. That state's insurance commissioner, Steve Poizner, has authorized new rules allowing such plans to move ahead.

In sunny -- and stormy -- Florida, Tallahassee.com has an interesting opinion piece about the state of property insurance there:
In terms of property insurance, homeowners have been living in something of a fool's paradise in Florida for several years. There's little evidence that, if a major hurricane strikes, property owners would be sufficiently covered, given the anticipated withdrawal of State Farm from the market — thanks to a political showdown two years ago with Gov. Charlie Crist, who said the insurance giant's rate request was unreasonable. But those 770,000 customers are not necessarily ensured of coverage in a market where incoming companies haven't shown much interest in mom-and-pop properties. These largely unregulated "surplus lines" specialize in high-risk, commercial, waterfront properties instead.
Lastly, broad health insurance reforms are moving ahead rapidly, in Kenya. The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports that Kenya's government aims to have all Kenyans covered with health insurance by 2017.