Associated Press (via NY Daily News):
The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday, churning along a path pointing to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.
The eye of Hurricane Irma passed over Barbuda around 1:47 a.m., the National Weather Service said. Residents said over local radio that phone lines went down. Heavy rain and howling winds raked the neighboring island of Antigua, sending debris flying as people huddled in their homes or government shelters.
CNN notes that the eye of the storm was bigger than the island of Barbuda.
The forecast is for the storm to swing north toward Florida, as you can see in the National Hurricane Center cone illustration above. A South Florida strike is forecast four or five days from now.
FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – has information on how to prepare for a hurricane.
Sunday night, as Hurricane Irma toggles between Category 2 and Category 3, Weather Underground gives us the . . .
Bottom line: Irma is a growing threat to the Leeward Islands, the Greater Antilles, and the Eastern Bahamas. Irma is expected to be drawing closer to the East Coast as a powerful Category 4 hurricane this weekend, but it is still too soon to predict the timing and location of any potential landfall with confidence, and it is still possible Irma will move out to sea.
Do you have a hurricane plan?
- Yes: Make sure it is ready to go.
- No: Here are some basics on what you need.
This just came in an email blast from FEMA, along with an accompanying pdf:
FEMA encourages ALL individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey to register for disaster assistance—even if they have flood insurance.
At this time, FEMA is encouraging individuals to register through the website at: www.disasterassistance.gov. There is the ability to register by phone however; as expected there will be wait time when calling 1-800-631-6632 (FEMA).
FEMA’s disaster assistance can provide:
· Temporary housing
· Lodging expenses reimbursement
· Permanent or Semi-Permanent Housing Construction
It can also provide the following available:
· Disaster-caused child care expenses
· Disaster-caused medical and dental expenses.
· Disaster-caused funeral and burial expenses.
· Disaster-caused damages to essential household items (room furnishings, appliances); clothing; tools (specialized or protective clothing and equipment) required for your job; necessary educational materials (computers, school books, supplies).
· Fuel for the primary heat source (heating oil, gas).
· Clean-up items (wet/dry vacuum, dehumidifier).
· Disaster-caused damage to an essential vehicle.
· Moving and storage expenses caused by the disaster (moving and storage of personal property while repairs are being made to the primary residence, and returning property to the primary address).
· Other necessary expenses or serious needs as determined by FEMA.
· Other expenses that are authorized by law.
· At time of registration and inspection, applicants are required to inform FEMA of all insurance coverage that may be available to them to meet their disaster-caused needs. FEMA does not require denial of insurance coverage before people call 800-621-3362 to register for FEMA assistance.
· Applicants who only have homeowners insurance but have sustained flood damage are not required to submit insurance documentation to receive FEMA Rental Assistance or financial assistance for real or personal property disaster-caused damage.
· Applicants are not required to submit homeowners-insurance documents to FEMA before FEMA will consider their eligibility for financial assistance for any real property damage caused by flood.
For more information on FEMA’s Individual Disaster Assistance, please see https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance.
The tragedy of Hurricane Harvey continues, but Hurricane Irma lurks.
As I write this (1 p.m. Saturday) Irma has sustained winds of 110 mph, which puts it at the top of Category 2 status. It could reach Cat 4 soon, according to the National Weather Service, and its path could take it to the East Coast by mid-week.
If you live along the East Coast – and with Harvey fresh in mind – it really, really makes sense to make sure Irma doesn’t surprise you.
FEMA gives a complete rundown of what to do before and after a storm here.
CoreLogic released new estimates for losses from Hurricane Harvey:
- NFIP insured losses – between $6 billion and $9 billion. This implies losses will hit the private reinsurance layer ($4 billion excess $4 billion, of which reinsurers bear about 26 percent).
- Private flood insurance losses: less than $0.5 billion.
- Uninsured flood loss: between $18 billion and $27 billion.
- Insured wind loss: $1 billion to $2 billion.
Insured loss for Texas and Louisiana is between $7.5 billon and $11.5 billion, according to their estimates. This excludes commercial, loss of business and other, broader economic losses, according to the CoreLogic press release.
An estimated 70 percent of flood damage from Hurricane Harvey is not covered by any insurance.
Insurance claims professionals often are the second people on the scene after a natural disaster, arriving right after the first responders. In fact, insurers are often considered the economic first responders – because it is insurance that fuels recovery.
After you call in your insurance claim, a claims adjuster will be assigned to you. This professional investigates and evaluates your loss and helps you get insurance funds to settle your claim. While some insurers may use a single adjuster, others may prefer to use certain specialists. That means you could have more than one claims adjuster assigned to assist with filing a claim after a disaster.
For example, you may have someone meet you at your property who is an expert in construction and structural damage. Another expert claims handler could be assigned to help itemize your home’s contents. If you have flood insurance, a flood claim specialist may be called in. And, if your vehicle was damaged by flooding, an auto damage specialist would be assigned.
In every instance, the goal is to pay your claim and provide the financial resources to rebuild. Understanding the insurance claims process will help to ensure that it is a smooth one.
The human catastrophe of Hurricane Harvey continues to unfold. The financial challenges, unfortunately, have just begun.
Nationwide over 40 percent of homeowners think the standard homeowners policy covers flood damage from heavy rain, according to Insurance Information Institute public opinion surveys.
It doesn’t. It covers a hurricane’s wind damage, not its floods. This post outlines what a flood insurance policy covers and describes federal help if you lack flood insurance.
And the misconception – homeowners insurance covers flood – has a toll. Other I.I.I. surveys indicate that nationwide only 12 percent of homeowners have flood insurance.
In Harris County, Texas, 15 percent of homes are protected by flood insurance, according to data from the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) – which sells the overwhelming majority of residential flood policies. (A few private insurers also offer flood insurance.)
The standard NFIP policy covers . . . Continue reading What Does Flood Insurance Cover? What If You Lack Flood Insurance?
For heaven’s sake, even Snopes.com is taking on the rumor that Harvey claims have to be filed by Friday:
Texas House Bill 1774 does indeed introduce changes to the way property damage insurance claims are dealt with in the state, but only in the event of a litigated dispute over a claim. Most insurance claims are settled out of court, and so the potential benefit in filing a claim before 1 September 2017 (which is itself marginal) will likely not apply in most cases.
The real benefit would be in filing a lawsuit before 1 September, but for obvious practical reasons, it is extremely unlikely that someone whose home has been destroyed or extensively damaged days earlier, would be in a position to do this.
The law was signed by Governor Greg Abbott on 26 May 2017.
Meanwhile, the National Flood Insurance Program, which will be handling the bulk of claims from Hurricane Harvey, makes these points:
- Media reports warning of reduced liabilities for insurance companies, late payment penalties, and immediate timelines for filing claims do not pertain to NFIP claims.
- National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP) claims are not subject to state laws. As such, the House Bill 1774 passed in Texas does not affect flood insurance policies or claims from the National Flood Insurance Program
- NFIP policyholders who have experienced flood damage should file their insurance claims as soon as possible to begin their recovery process, but there is no benefit or penalty in filing before or after September 1, 2017.
- Visit www.fema.gov/nfip to learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program and how to file your Flood Insurance claim.
This guest post comes to us from Brad Lehman, a Texan who also went through Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
As Harvey spreads chaos throughout my current home state of Texas, I haven’t forgotten that, 25 years ago, my Florida home sat in the path of Hurricane Andrew. My family learned a lot about life and recovery from that storm.
One lesson I can pass on to Texans: When this is over, check your roof.
A scant six months after Andrew, there was a three-day storm that blew all along the Eastern Seaboard with sustained 25- to 30-mph winds. People who got slapdash roofs after Andrew saw the thin shingles flapping in the wind. Once one shingle came loose, it affected adjacent shingles.
I had a thicker shingle put on my own house, but there was a corner of the roof that began flapping. I had some roof tar and quickly glued that portion down. (Note: I am not urging you to get on your roof, especially during the storm.)
As with Andrew, many people here in San Antonio have recently had new roofs installed because of last year’s hailstorms. Was your roofer from out of town or a discounter? Once Harvey’s clouds dissipate, take a hard look at your roof. Relentless winds expose weaknesses.
A new property litigation law goes into effect in Texas on Sept. 1. Its impact has been exaggerated. (If you read the entire story at this link, you will see that it debunks its own headline.)
If you will be filing a homeowners insurance claim, here is what you need to know:
Under the new property litigation law:
- The claims process for filing a claim for an insurer to handle a claim has not changed.
- Consumers still have all legal remedies available under the consumer protection laws in the event an insurer engages in bad faith conduct.
- The Texas Department of Insurance is available to handle any complaints about insurers.
- The new law does not take away any right to sue and does not diminish any cause of action that a person has against an insurance company. HB 1774 does, however, require notice before a lawsuit is filed.
- The pre lawsuit notice is effective for all “actions filed on and after the effective date, which is September 1, 2017.” Any lawsuit filed after September 1, 2017, would be governed by the new law.
Texans should contact their insurance companies directly to file claims, work with your adjuster to identify all damages and coverages, and resolve your claim quickly.