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Webster Groves homeowners struggling to recover from flood damage

KSDK-TV St. Louis logo KSDK-TV St. Louis 8/11/2022 Holden Kurwicki
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The floodwater has receded but a number of Webster Groves residents say insurance issues and damage assessments by the city have left them underwater.

When historic rains washed through Webster Groves, neighbors Kim Wilkins and David Perez had to be rescued from the floodwater.

What they found when they returned is every homeowner's worst nightmare.

“There was three feet of water damage,” said Kim Wilkins. “All of my furniture and all of my belongings are gone.”

“You can’t really prepare for something like this,” said David Perez. “Even if you have flood insurance it’s a whole different experience actually being there and living it.”

Perez has homeowners and flood insurance though he says it hasn’t helped due to a little-known clause.

“Concurrent causation,” said David Perez. “If the windows would have held we would have been covered under personal property, but because the windows broke we weren’t covered.  It makes me really wonder why we pay insurance.”

Meanwhile, Wilkins may be worse off in the eyes of the City of Webster Groves Building Commission

“They said that my house is substantially damaged,” said Wilkins. “It’s 64.4% (damaged) and that I have one of three options: I either have to bring it up to the flood code, move it up to the flood plain, or demolish it.  I can’t do any of those things.”

According to Wilkins no one from the city of Webster Groves ever set foot inside of her home, so 5 On Your Side so I went to city hall to find out exactly how that assessment was made.

City spokesman Jenny Starkey provided 5 On Your Side with this statement:

 “FEMA has provided Substantial Damage Estimator software that takes a square footage construction cost that is provided by the International Code Council and combines it with the St. Louis County Appraised Improvements value to come up with a percentage damaged for each structure impacted by the flood. The County number only accounts for the “improvement value” since the land does not have to be replaced, just structures. Once we have those numbers, FEMA has provided a sheet to use to enter values for percent damaged in various categories. For example; Exterior walls with water depths of 2 feet or less are considered 10% damaged, while water depths of 2 feet to 4 feet get a 25% value entered. We do have the ability to adjust the percentages up and down, if appropriate for the specific structure configuration, but generally, Floodplain Administrators are supposed to follow the FEMA guidance. 

In short, the adjusted value of the property is the Appraised Improvements value from St. Louis County and the percent damaged comes from FEMA’s handouts and system. Any structure over 50% damaged is required under our ordinance to come into compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program, to help prevent future losses. An owner’s flood insurance, or lack thereof, are not considered when making a determination because the property has to be brought into compliance whether you have insurance or not.” 

“They’re saying that the house is worth $85,000, but I pay taxes on $275,000,” said Wilkins. “I don’t understand.”

That’s why the city is encouraging residents to apply for FEMA aid online if they need assistance.

“Honestly without FEMA I wouldn’t know what to do,” said Wilkins. “I would have little hope.”

“We just don’t know what to do,” said Perez.

If you, or your home, were impacted by the floodwater click here to apply for FEMA aid.

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