FEMA: As of Mid-June, Arkansas’ Sebastian County Had Most Flood Claims

July 9, 2019

From April through mid-June, more than 230 claims stemming from flooding of the Arkansas River and its tributaries in Arkansas had been filed with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In an announcement released June 15, FEMA said the highest concentration of claims at that point were from policyholders in Sebastian County, home to Fort Smith.

The Arkansas River peaked at around 44 feet at Fort Smith, according to Irvine, California-based data analytics provider CoreLogic. The previous flood stage record at Fort Smith was 38 feet.

Only about 3 percent of property owners are insured for flood in the Fort Smith area, CoreLogic pointed out in a June 11 webinar discussing severe weather in May 2019.

As of 2017, 16,777 NFIP Flood policies were in effect in Arkansas, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). That total includes a combination of NFIP direct written policies (3,174) and write your own (WYO) policies (13,503).

More than 20 percent of all NFIP claims come from outside the areas of highest risk, according to the Arkansas Insurance Department.

In its June 11 webinar, CoreLogic looked at properties at risk in the late-May flooding in three of the state’s counties: Crawford, Pulaski and Sebastian. They were among the 16 Arkansas counties named in a FEMA disaster declaration on May 30.

CoreLogic recognized that flood claims and damage costs had not been fully realized, but focusing on moderate to high risk properties close to but outside of FEMA-recognized special flood hazard areas, or SFHAs, the data analytics firm said it found:

  • In Pulaski county — which includes Little Rock, North Little Rock — 21.4 % of properties were at moderate to high risk for flooding, while 4.4% of properties were at very high risk. That is, they were situated in 100-year flood plain.
  • In Crawford county, which includes Van Buren, across the Arkansas River from Fort Smith — 14.1% of properties were in moderate to high risk areas and 2.7 % were in a very high risk zone.
  • In Sebastian County, where Fort Smith is located, 16.1% of properties were at moderate to high risk and 3.1% were at very high risk.

CoreLogic said its preliminary analysis showed that a total of 461 properties in the three counties potentially suffered flood damage at a reconstruction cost value of $144,043,93.

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