Experts Recommend Insurance With Earthquakes, Floods Part of Life in Arkansas

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 18, 2013 12:00 am  

Michael Alexander of Argenia LLC of Little Rock said he sells more earthquake insurance after a big quake has been reported. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

Within the next 50 years, a major earthquake is expected to rattle Arkansas.

But predicting when and where it will strike is difficult, said Haydar Al-Shukri, director for the Arkansas Earthquake Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“A 6.5 [magnitude earthquake] in the area could create major problems,” he said.

He said most buildings in the state weren’t designed to withstand such shaking. A number of major oil and gas pipelines also could snap during the big one.

And if that weren’t enough to worry about, more disasters could hit the state in the meantime. Weather watchers have noticed the increased frequency of floods.

“We’re going to have floods. We’re going to have droughts,” said Michael Borengasser, the state climatologist for Arkansas and national flood insurance program coordinator. “It’s just a matter of when.”

Experts are warning Arkansans who live near earthquake activity and flood zones to be prepared by having flood and earthquake insurance.

“You never think it will happen to you,” said Michael Alexander, vice president of Argenia LLC of Little Rock, which sells earthquake insurance.

He said Argenia, which was formed in 1976, has never had to pay a claim for earthquake damage, and he’s not aware of an earthquake claim being paid in the state. But that doesn’t mean property owners will never need it.

Alexander declined to say how many homes his company covers.

The Arkansas Insurance Department doesn’t track how many earthquake claims have been paid in the state.

But flood insurance payments have been rising. Flood insurance is handled by the federal government and it paid $28.85 million to Arkansans for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a 3.6 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The number of claims only dropped by 22 to 1,116 in fiscal 2012 compared with the same period in 2011.



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