A storm, a hurricane, an expert’s firsthand encounter
4 min 38 sec
Meteorologist Frank Billingsley had been providing hurricane and tropical storm information to viewers for years. But it was only after Tropical Storm Allison hit that he learned the importance of having flood insurance himself.
Frank Billingsley Video Testimonial Transcript
Slate: Tropical Storm Allison devastated southeast Texas in June 2001, causing $5.5 billion in damage. The Houston area was hit the hardest.
Slate: Allison remains the only tropical storm to have its name retired by the National Weather Service, a distinction usually reserved for hurricanes.
Frank Billingsley - Tropical Storm Allison was a weak storm to begin with. It came into Texas and moved North of Houston. And then after another day or two it started to move very slowly to the southwest of Houston. So here it is parked Southwest of Houston and it's grabbing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and it just became a spinning wheel of moisture just pulling more and more rain into Southeast Texas.
It started raining on a Friday, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. And it didn't stop until 4 o'clock in the morning the next day. 12 hours of solid rain and in some cases, as much as three inches per hour.
So it's coming down in sheets. You can't see anything in front of you. It's coming right across the yard and across the patio and right to this edge here is where the water came. So this whole backyard was covered. Thank goodness it stopped. And of course, I didn't have any flood insurance. So I'm thinking, just one more hour of rain and I'm in trouble.
Neighbors who had a newer home and had built a little higher were going through the same thing. Their homes were also becoming islands. Those people who, like me, living right around this neighborhood thought they weren't in a high-risk flood area, and they got flooded. And their homes got ruined.
I'm a television meteorologist; I know what flooding can do. I've studied it, I've seen it. I've seen the devastation that flooding can cause but because I am not here in Houston in what we call a "high-risk flood area" I didn't have flood insurance. I just had the regular homeowners. That doesn't cover you for flood.
So here I am on television all night long telling people that the flood is coming, and I myself am making deals with higher powers because I don't have flood insurance. The next day, I called my agent.
MJ Lane -- When Frank called and he asked me about flood insurance, I thought to myself, well isn't that kind of strange? Here we have one of our number one meteorologists in the area giving information to the public about a hurricane or tropical storm and this man doesn't have flood insurance?!
At the time of his phone call, he told me that he noticed that it was several inches from coming into his house and I said now that is a real problem. We need to make sure that we protect your house.
Frank Billingsley -- After my close call with Allison, I'll never own a home again that does not have flood insurance.
Slate: In 2008 Texas was again battered by a major storm. This time it was Hurricane Ike -- the third most destructive hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States.
Slate: Ike made landfall at Galveston on September 13, causing nearly 200 deaths $28.7 billion in damages.
Frank Billingsley -- Ike was a much different situation because Ike was a storm that was in some sense predictable. We didn't know exactly where Ike would go but we knew pretty well what Ike would do. Because you could almost envision this 20 foot wall of water coming at you. Though it was pretty clear that wherever Ike actually went into, they were going to see a huge surge of water, a huge flood event.
You look at Ike and it is very comparable to Katrina. There are some people who can't just find their house because the house is gone, they can't find their lot because the land is gone.
This is my home in Galveston Island. It's a new home so it's built to code but that doesn't keep the water from coming in. And I had 30 inches, 2 1/2 feet of water that came in the lower level. About $8,000 of damage is what occurred here. Because I had flood insurance, which cost me $400 a year, six thousand of that eight thousand was covered. You want to have flood insurance, especially, obviously on Galveston Island. Thank goodness I did.
You never know whether you're going to be the one that gets away with the water just coming to your doorstep and stopping, or if you're going to have devastating floodwaters in your home. You just never know.
The storm happened on September the 13th. I made the claims in the next two weeks after that. And probably by the first week of November, I got my check.
And you hope you never have to call your insurance agent other than to say hello and happy birthday, but if it does happen to you, you want to have an agent to call. You want to have that insurance policy on your side. It's that simple.
Back to top