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a voluntary council of local governments
serving the missouri meramec area.

What you need to know about flooding, flood insurance in Salem

For immediate release

For more information, contact
Tammy Snodgrass or Caitlin Jones

SALEM—Salem has an increased risk of flash flooding when the spring and summer rains begin. In the past, severe flash flooding has caused damage to homes and property. However, major flooding can occur at any time of the year and cause millions of dollars of damage over a widespread area. The city of Salem participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that ensures the availability of flood insurance for homeowners, tenants and businesses. It also brings with it some requirements in order for the city to participate. 

While severe flooding usually comes in cycles, it is not limited to certain decades or areas, warns the National Weather Service. Since January 1990, Missouri received 35 disaster declarations involving flooding that exceeded local and state response capabilities, marking the most recent for the flood events that occurred in July 2022. Each year, Missouri communities experience numerous localized flooding events that do not merit a federal disaster declaration. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Salem has had 13 flooding events between 2001-2020.

Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) serves as the floodplain administrator for the city of Salem and is available to answer questions. 

National Flood Plain Insurance Program (NFIP)

The NFIP is managed by FEMA and delivered to the public by insurance companies. If there is not a federal disaster declaration that includes aid for individuals, flood insurance is the only financial protection for personal losses. Flood insurance is not provided in the basic homeowner’s, business or tenant’s policy. Flood insurance must be purchased under a separate policy through your local insurance agent in participating communities. 

In Missouri, 666 cities and counties participate in the NFIP, with nearly 500 having a moderate to high concern for flooding. When a community enters the NFIP, it agrees to regulate floodplain development; in return it makes flood insurance available to property owners in that community. Other important facts about NFIP, include:

  • Standard homeowner insurance policies do not offer protection against flood losses. Homeowners, business owners and renters can purchase flood insurance as long as their community participates in the NFIP.
  • You do not have to live in a high-risk flood area (or floodplain) to buy flood insurance. In fact, 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from medium or low-risk flood areas.
  • If you live in a high-risk flood area, you are four times more likely to have a flood than a fire during the term of a 30-year mortgage.
  • You can buy flood insurance from any licensed insurance agent. You may call 1-800-427-2297 or go to floodsmart.gov to find an agent serving your area.
  • Flood insurance coverage is available for residential and business structures and contents.  If you have a home-based business, you’ll need to purchase separate coverage for the business and/or contents. Coverage is not automatically included under a homeowner flood insurance policy, even if the business is located inside your home.
  • Renters can purchase contents coverage for personal belongings.
  • There is a 30-day waiting period from the time the initial premium is paid until the time the policy becomes effective.
  • A flood insurance policy reimburses you to certain limits for actions taken to prevent flood damages. These actions can include moving the insured contents to a safe place and/or the cost of purchasing sandbags, plastic sheeting, lumber, pumps, ect.
  • Flood insurance claims are paid regardless of a federal disaster declaration.
  • Flood insurance will reimburse you for your covered losses and never has to be repaid, unlike a disaster assistance loan.

Thinking about a construction or renovation project?

Salem residents need to know that a floodplain development permit may be required if they are planning construction, remodeling or substantial improvements to structures located within a floodplain. This includes rehab work to homes that have been flooded. 

“If you are planning to build any type of structure or improve existing structures, you need to determine if you are in a floodplain, and we can provide floodplain maps to help Salem residents do that,” said Tammy Snodgrass, MRPC assistant director and environmental programs manager. “If your lending institution is requiring you to purchase flood insurance, that is a good indication that you may be in an area susceptible to flooding, and you most definitely need to contact us. The sooner you find out, the better.” 

Knowing whether a construction project or renovation is taking place in a floodplain allows for design changes to take into consideration the eventuality of a flood causing serious damage to property. 

If structures are out of compliance with NFIP, the local jurisdiction could lose its ability to participate in the flood insurance program. 

Protecting your home now from future flood damages

Anyone who has experienced flooding may have also cleaned out basements filled with sewage and water, torn out wet drywall and carpeting, or replaced water heaters and furnaces. The following mitigation measures make these damages less costly: 

  • Elevate or relocate water heaters, furnaces and major appliances. It is much easier to relocate these appliances to a floor located above the base flood elevation (BFE) – or 100-year flood. If they cannot be relocated, then you need to elevate the appliance to one foot above the base flood elevation. Some heating systems can be suspended from the ceiling.
  • Raise electrical panel boxes, circuit breakers, wall switches and any electric outlets to one foot above the base flood elevation. 
  • To prevent sewer backups, install a backflow valve either inside or outside the structure.
  • Install floating floor drain plugs at the lowest point of the lowest finished floor to allow water to drain. When the drainpipe backs up during a flood, the float rises and plugs the drain.
  • Anchor heating fuel tanks to prevent them from floating, overturning or breaking loose in a flood. Metal structural supports and fasteners should be non-corrosive and wooden structural supports should be pressure treated.
  • Check with your local building code officials and floodplain manager before starting any construction in a floodplain.
  • Take photographs or a video of your home and all contents and store the documentation in a safe place. This is helpful if you have to file an insurance claim or seek assistance following a community-wide disaster.
  • Consider flood insurance if you are in an area conducive to flooding, as standard homeowner policies do not cover flood damage.
  • Visit Floodsmart.gov to learn more.
  • Visit nws.noaa.gov/floodsafety/ to learn more about preparing for a flood.

Being prepared before a flood occurs can prevent significant property damage.

For more information on permits, please contact Tammy Snodgrass at MRPC at 573-265-2993 or by email at tsnodgrass@meramecregion.org

Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. Steve Vogt, representing the city of Belle, serves as chairman of the board. A professional staff of 34 offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.

To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at www.meramecregion.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meramecregion/.