BY JEFF McKINNEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Thousands of Tristate flood victims may suffer a second catastrophe when they discover their homeowners' policies do not cover flood damage.
Insurance agents say most homeowners in Ohio and Kentucky don't have flood insurance.
Only seven percent to 10 percent of the nearly 280,000 structures in Ohio's floodplain carry flood insurance, according to the Federal Insurance Administration.
Only about 20 percent of the structures in floodplain areas nationally carry flood insurance.
''Most of the damage is not covered by a homeowner's policy, unless it specifically states there is flood protection,'' said Mary Bonelli, spokeswoman for the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII).
Insurance experts said most consumers and businesses don't carry flood insurance because they don't believe such a natural disaster will occur, they don't ask their agent about the coverage or they find it too expensive.
For example, the average annual Ohio flood insurance policy in 1996 cost $373 for $67,700 of coverage. In comparison, a one-year homeowner's policy for $68,000 coverage cost between $220 and $250 in Hamilton County, according to State Farm Insurance Co.
Mike Heister, a principal at Heister Tasset Trimble, a White Oak property and casualty insurance brokerage, said his office has received numerous calls from people wanting to know whether their policies would provide them with temporary shelter or transportation because of flooding. He said such coverage is not included in most homeowners' policies unless it is specifically stated.
But homeowners should check whether their policies include coverage for flood-related claims such as water damage from backed-up sewers or drains, for possible claims. Also, individuals who have comprehensive car insurance might be able to recover losses if their vehicle is damaged or destroyed by flooding.