The Village of Winnetka participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which makes federally guaranteed flood insurance available for all eligible buildings, whether they are in a floodplain or not. In Winnetka, there are two sources of flood plain, the Skokie River and Lake Michigan. According to the current Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM’s), Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are areas subject to inundation by the 1% Annual Chance Flood or 100-year flood event. These areas are tributary to both the Skokie River and Lake Michigan flood plains. The Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for the Skokie River is 625.3 NAVD 1988 (or 625.5 NGVD 1929). The mapped BFE for Lake Michigan is 585 NAVD 1988. The BFE for both water bodies is generally consistent throughout the limits of Winnetka, though the BFE for the Skokie River does vary south of Hill Road.
As can be seen on the map provided here, the flood plain tributary to the Skokie River generally covers an area which spreads east as it goes south. The Skokie Ditch, which was initially constructed in the early 20th century in an attempt to drain the Skokie Marsh into Lake Michigan, was abandoned to create the Skokie Lagoons during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Presently, the remainder of this ditch system, north of Hill Road, flows to the north into a pump station which then pumps the storm water to the drainage system which drains back to the Skokie River. This area, as are several other areas in Winnetka, is subject to flooding due to heavy storm events. The topography in this area of town is relatively flat, and the storm water conveyance system, is comprised of many private storm sewers, which, like the public storm sewers, are frequently unable to handle the load due to intense storm events.
Unfortunately, as many of the residents in town are aware, you do not need to be located in a flood plain to be subject to flooding. Although the Village of Winnetka has not witnessed a 100-year flood event in recent history, we have experienced several 100-year plus storm events, most recently in April of 2013, July of 2011 and September of 2008. There have also been several river bank overtopping events, but not up to the 100-year BFE in the recent past. As a point of reference, if one were standing near the intersection of Hibbard Road and Ash Street, the elevation of a 100-year flood event would be approximately 2.3 feet deep, well above the knee of an adult.
Probably the most common source of flooding, as noted above, occurs during heavy rainstorm events when the capacity of the storm sewers has been exceeded due to the increase of storm water flow. This situation can readily worsen if the storm sewer inlet structures or other storm water conveyance systems are covered or blocked with leaves, or other debris, as well as ice. Once storm water starts ponding on the street surface, the potential for that water to infiltrate into the sanitary sewer system, increases. As a result, basement back-ups can occur for those homes with a gravity sanitary sewer.
Flood insurance covers direct losses caused by surface flooding, including a river flowing over its banks, a lake or ocean storm, and local drainage problems. If a flooding problem is caused or aggravated by sewer backup, consult with your insurance agent about obtaining a sewer backup rider to your homeowner’s insurance policy. According to insurance statistics, for properties located within the flood plain, there is a 26% chance of experiencing a flood during the life of a 30-year mortgage. As a point of comparison, there is a 4% chance of having a fire during that same time period.
The NFIP insures buildings with two types of coverage: building and contents. Building coverage is for the walls, floors, insulation, furnace, and other items permanently attached to the structure. Contents coverage may be purchased separately, if the contents are in an insurable building. The maximum amount available for a single-family residence is $250,000, and $100,000 for contents coverage. Visit www.floodsmart.gov for additional flood insurance details, and to estimate the annual premiums for various flood plain scenarios and coverage. Call your insurance provider to determine the exact premium rates and coverage available for your home. If you do not have an agent or your agent does not write flood insurance policies, the NFIP has a toll-free number for agent referrals (1-800-CALL FLOOD (1-800-225-5356) or TDD # 1-800-427-5593). There is a 30 day waiting period before new flood insurance coverage goes into effect. Please note that standard property insurance does not cover flood damage. Premiums for non-SFHA structures can be gotten at a much reduced rate. Also, Elevation Certificates are now required by the Lender and/or Insurance Provider to better establish the proper flood insurance premium rate for your property.
A flood insurance policy will pay covered losses even if a disaster has not been declared by the President of the United States. Federal disaster assistance requires a Presidential declaration, which happens in less than 50% of flooding events, nationwide.