Maple Hill: The Hazard
Floods are second only to fire as the most common natural disaster that threatens human life, and they are the top cause of property damage in the nation. The hazards of floods can be both immediate and chronic. Immediate hazards can include death from drowning, well and surface water contamination by sewer overflow and chemical spills, and destruction of property. The long term effects of floods include property damage and respiratory illnesses due to poor air quality from indoor mold and dampness.
People of low income are especially vulnerable to flooding because they are more likely to live in flood-prone areas where the land is more economical. For historical reasons, African Americans are even more likely than other groups to inhabit floodplains and to lack flood insurance. After Emancipation, resettlement communities for former slaves tended to be located in areas that were of less interest to white landowners, namely low-lying land in the floodplains.
Although homeowners within the 100-year floodplain are encouraged to purchase federal flood insurance through requirements for federally-insured mortgages, they may not do so. They may erroneously believe that homeowner’s insurance covers flooding or may not realize that they are living on a floodplain. Many African American families in these communities lack a clear title to their property as a result of long term exclusion from the legal system, making it even more difficult to purchase flood insurance. Moreover, the cost of this insurance is prohibitive for low income families, leaving them vulnerable to events such as Hurricane Floyd, which flooded land well into the 500-year floodplain.
“There’s a lot of things happening because of Hurricane Floyd that we had never experienced before. We had a lot of people that passed away, young people and some old people. People . . . die but it seemed like after Hurricane Floyd came through . . . it’s like it had some disease behind it.”
– Community Member