FEMA's flood insurance chief says agency ready for onslaught of Florence claims

  • More than 335,000 homeowners in the Carolinas have flood insurance through the government program.
  • Roughly 31 million residents remain under a flood watch as Florence, now a tropical depression, moves farther north.

The head of the National Flood Insurance Program told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Monday that the government is prepared to handle the anticipated rash of claims filed by homeowners in the upcoming days and weeks.

"As the days continue, we'll be able to start to get the number of claims being submitted, get adjusters out in the field when it's safe, and when it's safe for policyholders to be in their homes," said David Maurstad, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation and the chief executive of the NFIP.

Parts of North Carolina continues to be battered by rainfall from the remnants of Florence, now a tropical depression. The massive, slow-moving storm has left widespread flooding and destruction in its wake since slamming into the Carolinas with destructive winds and torrential rainfall late last week. More than 30 inches of rain already has fallen in some places.

Even as the storm moves farther north, "catastrophic/historic river flooding" is expected to continue over a broad swath of the region, according to the National Hurricane Center. Roughly 31 million residents remain under a flood watch.

Maurstad said there are more than 335,000 policyholders in the Carolinas.

"NFIP policyholders can know that we're gonna be there to make sure they are treated fairly and receive every dollar they have coming from their NFIP policy that they purchased," Maurstad said.

You need separate flood insurance

He also said this storm is a good reminder to homeowners of the importance of having separate insurance coverage flood damage. You can get coverage through the NFIP or a private insurer, depending on where you live.

"People think their homeowner's [policy] may cover them from floods and it doesn't," Maurstad said.

There are are coverage exclusions and limitations, however. For example, a government flood policy won't cover all of your belongings in your basement outside of things such as washers and dryers and water heaters. Separate insurance would be required.

If the magnitude of the flooding in North Carolina has caused you to consider a flood policy, don't wait for storm clouds to appear on the horizon. You need 30 days for it to take effect.

There's also a good chance your homeowners insurance policy has a hurricane deductible. It typically ranges from about 1 percent to 5 percent, depending on the specifics of your insurance contract.The percentage is based on the insured value of your home, not the damage caused.

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