GRAND FORKS — When a heavy September rain broke the windows to Grand Forks resident Gary Niemeier's basement, he learned firsthand the importance of having flood insurance in the Red River Valley.

Dressers floated and books were ruined, creating a mess for him and his family.

"(It was) pretty much high enough to take everything out except the ceiling," Niemeier said. "It's terrifying and it's also totally unexpected and surprising because we didn't think that we could get a flood like that."

Niemeier said his family was always told their home wasn't on the flood plain. When the water came in, they didn't have flood insurance.

The family had to throw things away and ripped out the sheetrock. Nearly four months later, they have new walls up, but the cost of rebuilding can be daunting without insurance.

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"In the end, it's going to be close to $70,000 or $80,000," Niemeier said, warning others in Grand Forks — and across the region — to prepare for any future floods.

"Our insurance denied our claim for damages from the flood, so we're pretty much paying out of pocket for everything."

Insurance agents say now is the time to consider buying flood insurance as it takes 30 days for a policy to become active.

"February would be a good time to get it (because) then you actually know you had it in place if something were to happen earlier," said Lynn Kadlec, a Farmers Union Insurance Agent. "We don't know what the melt's going to be like this year."

Flood insurance can cost anywhere from $500 to a couple thousand dollars, depending on where you live. It's active for a full year, and can also help you in the event of a summer or fall flood.

"It all depends on what Mother Nature brings (to) us in the next couple months as far as snow and that moisture level. The ground is pretty saturated," Kadlec said.

The Niemeiers hope to have their basement finished in the next month. But the threat of another flood is in the back of their minds. Now, at least, they're armed with insurance.

"We learned that lesson a little too late. But we'll be covered from now on," Niemeier said.

People with questions about buying flood insurance should contact their insurance agent for more information.

Grand Forks Emergency Management is planning to host information sessions about buying flood insurance later this month.

Do you have flood insurance?

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