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Now is the time for flood insurance, local officials say

Q: How does flood insurance work? If I don’t already have flood insurance, can I buy it and be protected if officials open the flood gates at Tuttle Creek?

A: The quick answer is that if you buy flood insurance today, it won’t kick in for 30 days. So if Manhattan sees major flooding in the next few weeks, you’d be out of luck.

But the threat of flooding likely won’t go away anytime soon. If you’re on the fence about it, local officials and insurance agents say the sooner you buy it the better.

“Flood insurance is the only thing that will provide financial recovery after a flood,” said Chad Bunger, senior city planner and certified floodplain manager. “Your basic homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance will not cover that.”

Here’s how it works.

Flood insurance is actually a national program offered through the National Flood Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but citizens won’t see FEMA agents selling coverage. Instead, flood insurance is bought through traditional homeowner’s insurance agents, who in turn, register property owners through the national program.

That means your flood insurance rate would be the same, no matter what agent or company you go through.

“Anyone — no matter where you live in Manhattan, Riley County or Pottawatomie County — can get flood insurance,” Bunger said. “If your insurance agent says you do not live ,in a flood plain and cannot get flood insurance, it’s time to get a new insurance agent, because they do not know what they’re talking about.”

Flood insurance is even required for certain properties. Homes in high flood risk areas with mortgages from federally regulated lenders or insurers are legally required to carry it, and some lenders require it even for low to moderate risk zones.

But even though people would pay the same rate across insurance agents, the rates themselves aren’t necessarily the same for every customer. Rates vary based on a few factors.

“It’s a misconception that you can just pull a number out of the air,” Vonda Copeland, operations administrator at Copeland Insurance Agency, said. “Everything is rated according to the risk.”

Two rate factors are property location, especially if the property is in a flood plain, and the elevation certificate, which is a survey document that measures the difference in elevation between the base flood elevation and the lowest point on the building. This certificate may need to be commissioned by the insurance seeker if one does not yet exist, or if the property wasn’t insured by the previous owner.

For most citizens, there are two flood insurance coverage options: building property coverage, which can cover up to $250,000 to homes or buildings, and personal property coverage, which covers up to $100,000 in lost home contents. Each comes with varying levels of coverage based on the chosen deductible and premiums, but people who buy flood insurance are covered for the replacement value up to the policy limit.

Like regular renter policies, renters can also buy their own flood insurance policy to cover the contents of a building, since a landlord-held policy only covers the building.

Building coverage insures the building itself, electrical and plumbing systems, air conditioning and heating systems, most appliances, and permanent carpeting, bookcases and cabinets.

Personal property coverage insures clothing, furniture, electronics, curtains, portable appliances, freezers and valuable items like original artwork and furs.

Not all items are covered under flood insurance. Most items, if left in a basement or other foundation structure, are not covered, with the exception of permanent structural items. That’s because flood insurance focuses on preventing damage, so avoidable damage to items in basements is not typically covered, Bunger said. Coverage for other separately-insured property, like cars or boats, will depend on the policy and type of coverage, and detached buildings will need their own building property policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Flood insurance kicks in once it floods. That doesn’t require a disaster declaration by the state or FEMA, but according to the National Flood Insurance Program, flooding is defined as “a general and temporary condition of partial or incomplete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties from … overflow of inland or tidal waters (or) unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source.” Flood damage is also considered when water currents cause land to collapse.

So no, water seepage into your basement or cellar is not considered flooding. Manmade flooding, such as water damage from overflowing bathtubs, washers or other similar incidents, is not covered either.

A common misconception is that a water release from Tuttle Creek Lake’s spillway gates would be considered manmade flooding, but that’s not the case. Under the National Flood Insurance Program’s definition, flooding resulting from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to release water is still covered.

Flood insurance will also not cover any loss-of-use type expenses, so one of the biggest financial hardships for families is finding a way to pay for temporary housing.

Compared to homeowner’s insurance for other events such as fire, flood insurance is more limited in its coverage, Copeland said.

“It’s a very limited scope,” Copeland said. “It covers this and this, and that’s it, where a regular policy might throw in identity theft coverage and jewelry floaters and other specific coverages. A flood policy is pretty basic.”

Copeland said that private flood insurance options for more or different coverage exist, but since they’re privately offered, those companies can put moratoriums on policies in specific counties. Right now, Riley County is under a moratorium.

Federal disaster aid isn’t a reliable option for flooding victims, according to FEMA. That kind of aid is only available when the president makes a presidential disaster declaration, and “most flood events do not result in a declaration.”

Although flooding is not an immediate concern, it will take some time for Tuttle Creek Lake to drain, even if rain stopped for the rest of the summer.

Tuttle Creek Lake’s elevation crossed the 1,128 feet above sea level threshold on Friday.

When the lake reached 1,136 feet, about 8 feet higher, in 1993, the Corps released the emergency spillway gates.

Firefighters host fire sprinkler safety demo

Just five minutes after firefighters lit a trash bin on fire in a mock living room, the structure was completely engulfed in flames and billowing, black smoke.

Temperatures reached over 1,000 degrees and firefighters blasted the room with water hoses capable of pumping 125 gallons per minute. After extinguishing the blaze, the room was a blackened shell with charred or melted remnants of a couch, table, TV and other furnishings.

In a separate simulated living room, firefighters once again lit a trash can on fire. This time, it remained largely untouched by flames as it was hooked up to a fire sprinkler. The sprinkler was triggered once ceiling temperatures reached 155 degrees, about a minute and a half after the fire started.

The Manhattan Fire Department hosted a fire sprinkler demonstration Friday morning at department headquarters to show just how quickly a fire can spread when a home is not protected by the devices.

“Residential fire sprinklers are probably the best mitigator of fire hazards in our houses,” Deputy Fire Marshal Ryan Courtright said. “A majority of fire deaths in the United States occur in a home so fire sprinklers are one of the most effective tools we can use to mitigate loss of life, and even first and foremost, are working, functioning smoke alarms. The data is there, they save lives.”

MFD hosted the event as part of its programming for International Code Council’s Building Safety Month and Home Fire Sprinkler Week. The demonstration was made possible by a stipend from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, a national nonprofit, to increase home fire sprinkler education.

Courtright said if someone were to install sprinklers in their home, the standard would be to place one in each habitable room, especially in the kitchen where most fires start.

To prevent fires from occurring in the first place and knowing how to respond to home fires, Courtright said residents should maintain safe cooking and grilling practices, as well as practicing escape plans with families. Captain Louis Kaylor added the department offered learning activities for children.

“The children make a huge impact,” Kaylor said. “They pay attention and they are the ones that really drive the parents to change the batteries in smoke alarms. If we can just make one difference, one child learns about fire safety, then we’re doing our job.”

Kaylor said the fire department can also provide fire safety information to international communities, as well.

Riley County under flood watch as weekend rain expected

More precipitation in the forecast this weekend has put Riley County and much of the surrounding area in another flash flood watch.

K-State climatologist Mary Knapp said Manhattan is in an area predicted to get 3 to 5 inches of rain through Monday. However, Manhattan is on the borderline with another area predicted to receive 2.5 to 4 inches.

As of Friday morning, the flash flood watch for Riley County lasts until 7 a.m. Saturday. All of the surrounding counties are also in a flash flood watch. Knapp noted that there are flood warnings on the more northern reaches of Tuttle Creek Lake, including for the Big Blue River near Blue Rapids, the Black Vermillion River near Frankfort and Fancy Creek near Randolph.

“Anybody in flood prone areas should be monitoring the situation very carefully,” Knapp said.

Knapp said less rain is expected north of Manhattan, but heavier rains are expected farther south. Knapp said northwest Kansas, such as the Colby area, is predicted to get one-fourth to one-half inch over the weekend. She said the chances for the heaviest rain seem to be Saturday night into Sunday morning.

Sunshine between storms can create a less stable atmosphere, Knapp said, meaning storms can form more quickly.

“Clearing skies doesn’t mean we won’t get more,” Knapp said. “They could pop up anywhere and not move quickly.”

The city of Manhattan said that while there is no immediate threat of flooding from Tuttle Creek Lake, it encouraged residents in flood prone areas to check for updates frequently and to sign up for Riley County and Pottawatomie County alerts.

Gov. Laura Kelly also warned Kansans in a release Thursday to monitor conditions as severe weather moves through the state. She said that residents should check conditions before they head out for Memorial Day weekend.

“Memorial Day Weekend is a time many Kansans head outside or go to the lake. In many areas, conditions are not safe,” Kelly said in the release. “Put the safety of yourself and your family first. Check the weather before you venture out. If there is severe weather or tornados, seek shelter in a secure location. Check your road routes before traveling — remember conditions can change very fast. And stay away from flood water.”

This week, the state activated the State Emergency Operations Center to centralize the response to events like flooding and tornadoes.

SCHOOL NOTEBOOK | Local, area students qualify for history nationals

Several Manhattan-Ogden students placed in the Kansas History Day competition and will be going the National History Day competition in College Park, Maryland.

Eight students from three schools placed first or second and qualify to go to Maryland June 9-13 to show their work on Kansas History Day. Additionally, three more groups placed third and are eligible to go to nationals if the first or second place in their category are unable to compete.

Advith Natarajan from Marlatt Elementary placed second in the Junior Historical Paper category for “Nikola Tesla: Master of Lightning.”

Kael Arasmith, Cole Castor and Lynden Auckly, all from Woodrow Wilson Elementary, placed second in the Junior Group Exhibit for “Triumph and Tragedy of the Manhattan Project.”

Trevon Knox, Nathan Roelofs and Jack Wood, all from Marlatt Elementary, placed first in Junior Group Website for “Chemical Warfare in World War I.”

Connor Buchanan from Susan B. Anthony placed second in Junior Individual Website for “When Triumph and Tragedy Meets Its Waterloo.”

Claire Smith, Olivia Stuckwisch and Ayla Floersch, all from Marlatt Elementary, placed third in Junior Group Website for “Indian Boarding School and Haskell Institute.”

Mia Hamm, Mari Carey and Ellyn Campbell, all from Marlatt Elementary, placed third in Junior Group Exhibit for “Vietnam War Dogs.”

Alonna Brisco and Aubrianna Smith from Woodrow Wilson Elementary placed third in Junior Group Performance for “Schuyler Sisters.”

Teachers included Terry Healy and Lisa Bietau.

Sriya Puvvada of Washburn Rural Middle School placed first in Junior Individual Exhibit for “Justice Among the Grass: From Wreckage to Reconciliation.”

Annika Peterson of Washburn Rural Middle School placed first in Junior Individual Website for “Tiny Stitches: The Triumph and Tragedy of Vivien Thomas.”

Nicolas Navarro from Washburn Rural High School placed first in Senior Individual Website for “Triumph and Tragedy of the First Philippine Republic.”

Teachers for Washburn included Lindsey Dowell, Alice Bertels and Brian Meredith.

Kansas Teacher Hall of Fame

A late former Manhattan-area educator will be inducted into the Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame in June.

Rose Marie Hoerman is one of eight educators in the class of 2019 inducted into the hall of fame in Dodge City. This is the 43rd class to be inducted. The ceremony will be June 1 at Dodge City High School.

Hoerman was born on Feb. 6, 1929 in Hoxie, and was the sixth of ten children.

She entered the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia at age 16, where she was educated to become a teacher.

Hoerman received her bachelor’s degree from Marymount Catholic College in Salina, a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Detroit and a master’s degree from the College of Education at Kansas State University.

She taught at schools across the country, including in Damar, USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden, Flint Hills Christian School and Plainville Schools in Kansas. She met her husband, Stanley, while teaching 11th-grade religion class at Luckey High School in Manhattan.

She also served as principal in Boonville, Missouri, and Gladstone, Michigan.

Hoerman died on July 29.

State champs

The Manhattan High School Envirothon Team is the Kansas state champion.

At the state competition April 24 at Camp Wood in Elmdale, MHS placed first out of 14 teams. Envirothon is an outdoor environmental high school competition where students learn about and are tested on soils, forestry, wildlife, aquatics and current issues.

The students also give oral presentations. The Kansas Association of Conservation Districts sponsors the competition.

MHS team members include Dominykas Metlevski, Garson Gido, Alex Andresen, Allen Zhang and Brian Dudley. Teacher Noah Busch serves as coach.

Donations, grants

The Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education accepted $32,032.01 in grants and donations at its May 15 meeting.

LifeTouch donated $630.71 to Theodore Roosevelt Elementary for classroom projects.

The Theodore Roosevelt Elementary PTO gave $1,399.30 to the school for field trips.

CivicPlus Inc. donated $1,000 to Manhattan High School for BPA travel expenses.

The Marlatt Elementary PTO gave $29,002 to the elementary school for playground equipment.

FIT Closet

The FIT Closet will remain closed through June 30 to give volunteers some time off this summer.

The closet for USD 383 families will reopen Monday, July 1, with limited hours. The summer hours will be 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and 3 to 5:30 p.m. Thursdays.

Beginning Aug. 5, the closet will resume its regular hours.

The FIT Closet will not take any donations until July 1, as the shop will be undergoing renovations during the summer.

Next year, Coordinator Tracy Emery wants to have a volunteer who speaks Spanish for different shifts, including Monday mornings and all day Thursday to work with Spanish-speaking families.

Anyone who wants to volunteer and has availability in particular on Wednesday mornings or anytime Thursdays can contact Emery at