Lake St. John residents invest in flood insurance

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 5, 2010

FERRIDAY — Lake St. John resident William Coleman said he hopes that the $300 he invested this spring is little more than money thrown to the wind.

That’s because for the first time in all of his years on Lake St. John — he has lived there since 1946 — Coleman bought flood insurance.

“Where my house is located is on the west bank on the north end of the lake, and that is just about the highest point in the parish,” he said. “Even though this area did not go under in (the flood of) 1927, I felt like it was probably a good idea to go ahead and cover all my bases. I hope I never have to use it.”

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Coleman said he took a look at where the Mississippi River stands — currently at approximately 40.5 feet — and has decided that it’s not worth the risk to not be insured.

The river is higher than he ever remembers it being before the spring thaw, and he said the present conditions have made him consider the possible consequences of not having flood insurance.

“All the bar pits are full and all of the rivers behind us, the Tensas, the Black, the Ouachita, the Red, everything is bank full, and it is just a scenario that, depending on what the weather does up north, could adversely affect us,” he said.

He’s not alone, Ferriday insurance agent Heather King said.

“We have had a lot of people come in who don’t normally carry flood insurance and those who haven’t carried it in several years,” she said.

“People are a lot more concerned about it this year than they have been in the past.”

It’s not uncommon for someone to buy flood insurance, tell their neighbors and then have the neighbors come in, King said.

And while Coleman lives in the northern part of the parish, King said she’s seen a significant number of clients from the southern end of the parish, which is substantially lower than Lake St. John, come in.

“We are having a lot of people from Monterey come in,” she said.

“They are scared — people are scared.”

One misconception many people have is that homeowner’s insurance will cover flood damage, King said.

“A lot of people aren’t purchasing it because they say they already have insurance, but a homeowner’s policy does not include flood insurance,” King said.

Once someone buys a flood insurance policy, they have a 30-day waiting period before it is activated, she said.

Meanwhile, the river isn’t the only body of water that is being watched.

“(Lake St. John) is about five inches above pool stage,” Lake St. John Advisory Commission Chairman Tom Bell said. “We have noticed by our gauge and by inspection that there is some seepage water running into the lake from the river.”

While Bell said that is normal and nothing to be alarmed about, he said that should the lake rise another 1.75 inches, the lake commission will raise one of the control gates and bring the lake’s level down approximately six inches.

“We have increased our drainage since last year,” Bell said. “We doubled it by installing a five-foot culvert, which replaced a four-foot culvert that had become plugged.”

If the lake commission raises the gate to lower the lake level, it will drain into Buckner Bayou, which travels to Turtle Lake and enters Cocodrie Bayou, which drains to the southern end of the parish and empties into the Red River. If the Red River is higher than the water in the parish, the water would be pumped out by the parish’s southern pumping station, Bell said.

Bell said he checks the lake level daily be calling a gauge the U.S. Geological Survey placed on the lake.

The public can check the gauge by calling 318-757-0601.