LAWTON, Okla._Flood insurance rates are raising nationwide and it's impacting hundreds of homeowners in southwest Oklahoma.
The federal government is getting rid of all subsidized flood policies, a new rule that will affect nearly 5,000 Oklahomans, and 700 Lawtonians. Now President Obama is hoping to make this transition for these residents easier by regulating the new rates.
Officials within the City of Lawton didn't regulate who lived in a floodplain and who didn't until the 1980's. All of the residents who lived in those areas previous to that time were given subsidized, or pro-rated flood insurance rates, with everyone else who moved in afterwards paying a full insurance amount. Now these subsidized residents make up the majority of claims every single year, and it's something the government just can't afford anymore.
The stormwater manager for the City of Lawton, Cynthia Williams, said when the federal government cut subsidized insurance from residents in 2012, the immediate effects were devastating.
"People were losing insurance, saying you live so far under the base flood level, we're not going to insure you, or it could take you from a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars," said Williams.
That pain was felt right here in Lawton for some 700 residents and businesses that were located near the various creeks that ran through town. But on Friday, that rule became a little less painful.
"President Obama, on March 21st of this year, signed an act that said stop. Everything that was about to take place has been halted," said Williams.
Now roughly 40% of policy holders in Lawton will pay an 18% increase on flood insurance for the next five years. From there, they will move on to pay the standard rate that the rest of Lawtonians with insurance will pay. Those rates will keep residents confident their future claims will be met, something that Williams says Lawton is no stranger to.
"Anyone that could possibly be living in the floodplain has a greater increase for having flood damage. People need to be aware of where they live in the floodplain, they need to get insurance because floods will occur," said Williams.
There are three locations within the Lawton-Fort Sill area that house overflow stormwater. Anyone in those flood areas near creeks are still just as susceptible to floods because the basins can overflow during heavy rain.
The City of Lawton does offer rain barrels to residents to help with flooding. If you'd like to pick one up, you can call the city of Lawton's stormwater division at 580-581-3478.