FORT NORFOLK, Va. - This week is Virginia Flood Awareness Week, addressing the nation's most common and costly natural disaster.

The observance foreshadows the Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1, and is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Dam Safety and Floodplain Management - the commonwealth's national flood insurance coordinator.

"Twenty percent of all flood-insurance claims fall outside of designated flood plains," said Michelle Hamor, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District's Floodplain Management Services Section chief. "So, we want to make people aware that they could be at risk even if they don't fall in a certain area on a map."

She said only about 3 percent of Virginians have flood insurance.

"We commonly think of people who live on the coast as being vulnerable; there are other locations, such as inland areas, that are at risk, but may not be delineated on the Flood Insurance Rate Map," she continued. "Remember, flood events are natural events based on existing conditions and the map is based on probability of what has occurred."

According to a WAVY.com report Wednesday, Norfolk Assistant City Planner Lenny Newcomb warned homeowners, "Water does not know where a flood zone boundary is."

And the right time to purchase flood insurance may be now.

"Virginia Flood Awareness Week was declared to also remind people that it takes a month for flood insurance coverage to become active," Hamor said. "We focus a lot on the big storms, hurricanes, which occur more frequently in late summer and early fall, but flooding can occur all year long. It cannot be too early to buy flood insurance, but it can be too late."

Also, flood insurance cannot be purchased with 30 days of a named storm.

The cost for flood insurance is based on risk, with the least-expensive policy costing around $400 a year. Inversely, an inch of flooding can cause upward of $27,000 in home damage, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program.

The National Flood Insurance Program assists in providing affordable insurance to property owners, renters and businesses, helping mitigate the effects of flooding on new and improved structures. It's available at https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program

The program is recommended by Hamor, who is also co-chairperson for the Virginia Silver Jackets, which brings together multiple agencies, to include the district FPMS, and resources to reduce flood risk. Visit https://silverjackets.nfrmp.us/State-Teams/Virginia for details.

Hamor stated that those not mandated to have flood insurance may believe they don't qualify.

"Those who don't have a federally backed mortgage, don't own their home or those who live outside the flood plain and are not required to have it may believe, due to misinformation, that they can't acquire flood insurance. That's simply not true," she added.

Bottom line: Virginia is prone to flood events.

The state has one of the highest sea-level rises on the East Coast, combined with increased precipitation. Therefore, Hamor urges Virginians to consider purchasing flood insurance and staying prepared for a flood event by being informed by using the Virginia Flood Risk Information System at, https://cmap2.vims.edu/VaFloodRisk/vfris2.html.

The objective of the Norfolk District FPMS program is to foster public understanding of the options for handling flood hazards and promote prudent use and management of the nation's flood plains.

"We just want to make sure people can make the best decision," Hamor said, "before the storm comes."

For more information on flood risk, visit https://www.vaemergency.gov/floods or https://www.nao.usace.army.mil/Business-With-Us/Flood-Plain-Management