June 23rd, 2008
11:42 AM ET

They thought they'd be safe...

David Mattingly
AC360° Correspondent

All roads to Gulfport, IL lead to nowhere. They all dead-end into Mississippi flood waters. The closest we could get to the inundated Village using roads in Illinois was a police roadblock that is SEVEN MILES from town. That might tell you how close this river town of about 200 was to disaster when the flood waters started to rise.

But people lived here comforted by a levee system that the government said would protect them from a 100 year flood. No one was required to have federal flood insurance. Only 28 property owners had it. Some now say they were misled about the risks they were taking and that the chance of catastrophic flooding was miscalculated.

Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut agrees and says anyone living in an area protected by a levee should be REQUIRED to have flood insurance. He's pushing a bill that would do just that. But any change comes too late for Gulfport.

When the levee failed, the village was wiped out. All you can see today are a few signs and roof tops. Most buildings are completely under water.

Some residents tell me they will never go back. Without insurance they certainly can't afford to rebuild.

Editor's Note: See David Mattingly's Keeping Them Honest report on CNN.com HERE

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Karen

    I feel very bad for those in the flood areas., son't get me wrong, however flood insurance is not required in alot of areas, but did we not learn from other disasters such as Hurricane Katrina that just because you are not in a flood zone, you are not subject to flooding? I know it is always discussed on the news after a major flood in a "no flood zone" that just because you don't live in a flood zone you don't need flood insurance. Homewoners need to take responsibility and purchase coverage that THEY choose. Now its the governments fault? Because of mother nature? Now we are going to bail out once again people that took a cheaper route of saving what $600/yr on their insurance and pay out billions? Same situation with the morgage problem.. bad judgement.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:53 am |
  2. Mark Brafford from Otsu, Japan

    Let me get this straight, there is still someone actually listening to the government, AND FEMA. Call National Enquirer.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:59 am |
  3. Michael D.Walker

    These are indeed sad times. This country is in peril. The flood waters are but a symptom of the sickness that many Americans are plagued with under the current administration. I pray we don't lose hope in these trying times and some how come together when and if things get worse. And from the looks of things, they might.......

    June 24, 2008 at 5:36 am |
  4. Bill

    First, I feel bad for all the people that have lost their homes and livelihoods. It's tragic no matter which side of the argument you are on.

    I'm not sure this analogy is the same, but it's pretty close. I live directly over an earthquake fault in California. Earthquake insurance is offered by my Insurance company and subsidized by the government. Do I have Earthquake insurance no. But you also won't find me complaining that it was the government’s fault that I was not forced into buying Insurance. I prefer to have it be my choice and I prefer to not purchase it.

    We all need to stop blaming the government for our own short sightedness and stop holding out our hands. If Dodd's plan is put into place, they also must then provide for the people that can't afford the insurance. Another entitlement in my opinion.

    We continually move in the direction of : The government should provide everything for us and when something bad happens, it's the governments fault.

    Hmm, I wonder if it's also the goverments fault that I'm not as smart as I should be??

    June 24, 2008 at 2:23 am |
  5. Charles Lee

    I've lived on or near the water for years, and I have enough intelligence to think for myself and have flood insurance.
    When will we realize that the Government is not supposed to think for us. To blame FEMA for NOT telling you to get flood insurance is silly. If you are responsible enough to research home ownership, you should have enough personal responsibility to reseach your own insurance.

    June 23, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  6. AZoldguy

    Your reporting that seeks to cast blame on government or mortgage companies for not advising people that flood insurance "might be a good idea" even though their property was not in a flood plain is simply ridiculous. Whatever happened to individual responsibility and personal accountability? The nationwide standard is flood insurance for property within a 100-year flood plain. Whenever there is a 500-year, or 1,000 year event, all bets are off. It is purely the fault of Mother Nature!! Nothing prevented these property owners from voluntarily purchasing flood insurance even though"smart" folks would think it unnecessary.

    June 23, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  7. Bert Fridlin

    OK, folks. If I live within a short distance of a river and I live in a flood plain and I don't have enough sense to have flood insurance then I don't have any room to gripe if a flood occurs and my house is damaged.

    Please don't blame FEMA for someone who is not bright enough to have flood insurance. The guy who is not going back to his house and is not going to live in Gulfport anymore should not have lived there in the first place.

    Don't mess with Mother Nature or with the Mighty Mississippi River.

    Troy, Alabama

    June 23, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  8. Tim Marshall

    What a Hatchet job. Trying to pin it on Fema? I feel so bad for the people in that area, but you can not engineer levee's to insure against every flood event. The cost to build another 15 -18 feet of levee to protect those towns would be astronomical. And if you live by a major river with a a history of flooding, insurance would be a good idea. It is not Fema's job to look out for everybody. Also, I'm tired of CNN as a whole and this show in particular thinking that the government can and/or should solve every problem.

    June 23, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  9. Bret

    I just saw the keeping them honest part of the show with the guy reporting from "Gulfport Illinois". He was actually across the river in Burlington Iowa and saying that he couldn't see the town because it was underwater. From where he was standing, you couldn't see Gulfport even if the river dried up. Besides that, you'd have to be an idiot to not have flood insurance in that area, especially if you lived there back in 1993. So don't blame it on the government because you didn't want to fork over the extra cash.

    June 23, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  10. Annie Kate

    I thought flood insurance was required by the lender if you lived on a flood plain? Maybe not since these people were able to cancel theirs. I hope their property was paid for so they can walk away and get a new start without the mortgage for this one hanging around their neck.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 23, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  11. Tim, Loves Park IL

    Originally growing up in Henderson County Illinois (home of Gulfport) it is easy for me to feel bad for all involved. Having survived the flood of 93 and seeing that the town of Gulfport survived it without any major problems it is easy for me to see why the majority of citizens didn't have flood insurance. Being the case, after seeing what happened in New Orleans if I lived near a levee in a major flood plane I sure as heck would have gotten the insurance. But I am sure that the majority of people in Gulfport felt that nothing will happen to them. Being from that area I am saddened by what happened and hope that everyone will get through with their lives intact.

    June 23, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  12. Heather

    I never underestimate the power of mother nature or Murphys law.

    June 23, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  13. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    There's a reason it's called a flood plain. Better than flood insurane would be to build on high ground.

    June 23, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  14. Eric

    Should of, could of, would of...

    Regardless, it is all too late. These same discussions were made after Katrina and yet nothing happened. Unfortunately, for Lilibeth and the rest of America we do not learn from tragedy.

    PS: I have seen David Mattingly walking through the streets waist deep in water. Is this sanitary? Safe? Necessary? It would seem authorities wouldn't want him there.

    June 23, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  15. Kristen- Philadelphia, PA

    It makes sense for that to be required but too little too late for the folks whose houses are flooded now. After being told they were protected with the levees by FEMA and government officials what do they do now. I wouldn't be surprised if the same local government officials have flood insurance on their homes.

    June 23, 2008 at 1:06 pm |
  16. Lilibeth

    They say hindsight is 20/20. It may be too late for folks in Gulf Port, but not too late for others. May this be a lesson learned for all of us to be proactive, regardless of what the government says.

    Edmonds, Washington

    June 23, 2008 at 12:20 pm |
  17. Cindy

    Well when you live anywhere near a levee or close to a major river then you should have flood insurance no matter what any official or anyone else tells you. So really these people can't blame anyone but themselves. Because no one can really predict the weather or how any man made levee or anything else will hold up. I'd rather be safe than sorry.


    June 23, 2008 at 11:55 am |
  18. Marcia, Warren MI

    I agree with Senator Dodd Flood insurance should be required if you live in an area where there are levees. Where I live if you refinance your home you MUST have flood insurance if you live in a flood plain which I do.

    A few years ago we had a freak February rain storm which caused many basements in the area to flood, but if you didn't have flood insurance anything down there was lost because home owners insurance doesn't cover it.

    As for the people moving rather than rebuilding that happened a lot after Katrina even if you did want to stay in places like St Bernard Parish and could afford to rebuild the new insurance premiums would be so high it wouldn't be worth it.

    It seems that this is a no win situation for everyone

    June 23, 2008 at 11:54 am |