Saint-Louis was not flooded, according to some insurance companies | St. Louis Metro News | Saint Louis

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Courtesy of Matthew Sisul

A car in the Ellendale neighborhood partially submerged in what some insurance companies say was not a flood.

In the Ellendale neighborhood in the south of the city, nearly every house on Hermitage Avenue is boarded up, leaving residents displaced. Hermitage backs up to the Des Peres River and amid unprecedented rainfall in late July, houses on the street were among the hardest hit in an area that suffered extensive damage.

Locals at the time told the RFT water flooded their homes, geysers erupted from manholes in the street and a man had to wade neck-deep in sewers with his children on his shoulders to get them to safety.

Tom, whose property adjoins the Des Peres River and asked that his last name not be used, says that when the water started to rise through his basement sewer drain, he turned around to see water spraying through the crack in his basement door. “He ripped the whole door from the frame,” he said.

It all sounds like a flood by any reasonable definition of the word.

However, some flood insurance companies disagree.

Matthew Sisul is the president of the Ellendale neighborhood association.

“Many of them have flood insurance,” Sisul says of her neighbors. “But the flood insurance adjusters denied their coverage.”

According to Sisul, these adjusters say, “It was a sewer backup incident that the sewer service is responsible for.”

Ellendale resident Tom recounts RFT he didn’t have flood insurance to begin with, but he knows neighbors who have and whose claims are being denied.

Sisul points out that he’s not sure how many residents are facing these denials from flood insurers, but “more than one person is being told it’s irritating.”

And he’s spoken to more than one person this has happened to.

Sean Hadley, director of public affairs for the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District, says just because water enters someone’s home through a sewer drain in the basement doesn’t mean a sewer backup has occurred.

“Suppose you live next door to me and water enters your house, say, through your window well. Then it goes down your basement drain, now you end up flooding me,” Hadley said. “One house is enough.”

Hadley says that’s how “surface flooding,” which flood insurance should cover, can appear as if it were sewer backup.

Hadley says MSD is sending checks for $2,900 to people who have had a water backup.

Sisul says many residents have losses over $2,900.

In these cases, homeowners rely on a combination of flood insurance and FEMA to make up the difference.

But for flood insurance to be available, the insurance company must acknowledge that a flood has occurred.

“I’ve heard stories where adjusters have come out and said, ‘No, that’s not covered by flooding. It’s not a flood,'” Sisul said. “And then MSD says, ‘Well, you’re in a high-risk area, you need to have flood insurance, and if your flood insurance doesn’t cover it, and you need a better carrier. And that’s not really a good answer for people whose homes have just been condemned.”

“Both ends fight the middle, which is us,” Tom says.

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Kristan F. Talley