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Take steps to protect your property from Hurricane Florence and a potential insurance claim

Take steps to protect your property from Hurricane Florence and a potential insurance claim

Will Hurricane Florence become the Hurricane Harvey flooding event of the east coast? While the weather experts debate that issue, there is no doubt one way or another that Hurricane Florence is about to unleash a lot of misery on the mid Atlantic coast. Back in September 1989, Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston South Carolina and downtown buildings had 16 plus feet of water. Myrtle Beach just north of Charleston is now a very large tourist resort community and will have major damage if Florence keeps on its current track.

Even if the storm turns north and the eye does not cross over land, massive amounts of rain and the resulting flooding will likely cause wide spread damage. If the storm does cross the coast the effect will be widespread wind and flood damage. The combination of wind and flood from a hurricane is the ultimate nightmare for property owners because there will be arguments from flood and wind insurance carriers as to what came first, the flooding or the wind damage thus putting into question which insurance company (flood or wind carrier) pays for the damage.

Also, remember the lessons from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, flood insurance has limits on the amounts it will pay, as well as a whole host of restrictions and limitations in coverage. Then we learned that many folks in Houston did not have the foresight to buy flood insurance. Why should they, their neighborhoods had never flooded despite many other hurricane strikes and threats over the years. Either way, Hurricane Florence as it is currently forecast will likely cause significate long term economic damage to communities all along its projected path.

So, what should property owners be doing to prepare for this projected onslaught? In this situation, prepare for the worst. No question, item one should be to plan for a strategy to address life and safety concerns. By that I mean consider your surroundings. Are you in a flood zone or an area where flash flooding may likely occur due to water overflowing from a creek or river? If you live in any area where flooding is likely to happen, now is the time to plan for evacuation to an area that from a historical perspective does not flood.  But learn from the lessons of Harvey in Texas and remember there are many areas that may not be in a designated flood zone but may become flooded because of the sheer volume of water that will accumulate with no path to allow for the water to run off.

So, what is the best practice if wind and flood does damage your propertyand you have an insurance claim? It’s not too soon to be preparing for dealing with a Hurricane Florence insurance claim scenario. Once the all clear has been given to allow you to return to your property and once it is safe to inspect the damages, immediately document the damage (take pictures) and conditions of your property.  Note the conditions not only of the building but also the surrounding area. I cannot over emphasize the importance of this as conditions in and around your property can be a road map of what came first, the wind or the flood. If it is apparent that both hit, photographs can often help to segregate which peril caused flood damage and which likely was caused by wind. Having this documentation can help to make your case with insurance adjusters who likely will start showing up days or even weeks after the storm has passed, depending on the severity and volume of claims.

Finally, I wanted to get this blog out there now so folks hopefully will pay attention to their local emergency agencies and their surroundings. As each day passes the window to plan and take action get shorter and will close before you know it. As things stand now, Sunday September the following was posted on the Wunderground weather site. You should consider following these folk’s blogs especially given their concerns about the wind, flood events that likely will be unfolding in the coming days. Here is an excerpt that is worth reading:

“Life, safety, and protection of your family comes first, follow emergency response agencies directions, and in the aftermath, be conscious of rip off scams. Pay attention there will be a lot of slick talking disaster master showing up. If you have insurance its hard enough to get them to pay right the first time, but know this they will not pay twice for the same loss if the crooks get your money first.

Key Messages:

1. There is an increasing risk of life-threatening impacts from Florence: storm surge at the coast, freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event inland, and damaging hurricane-force winds. While it is too soon to determine the exact timing, location, and magnitude of these impacts, interests at the coast and inland from South Carolina into the mid-Atlantic region should closely monitor the progress of Florence, ensure they have their hurricane plan in place, and follow any advice given by local officials.

2. Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast will continue this week. These swells will result in life-threatening surf and rip currents.” 

Most importantly, stay safe. The public adjusters at Tutwiler & Associates are already planning on sending a claims team to the impacted areas.  If you have questions regarding any property insurance related issue caused by Hurricane Florence please call 800-321-4488 or contact a licensed Florida Public Adjuster to submit a question to one of our insurance claim experts.

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