How is Hurricane Michael recovery affecting
South Florida? Views differ
Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
November 16, 2018
Devastation left by Hurricane Michael in Florida’s
Panhandle last month evoked comparisons to Hurricane Andrew in South
Florida 26 years earlier, but business experts don’t expect Michael’s
aftermath to be nearly as disruptive beyond the destruction zone.
Andrew’s assault on South Florida in 1992
destroyed 25,524 homes, damaged another 101,241 and caused
more than $26 billion in damage — most in history at the
time, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The post-Andrew rebuilding effort sparked a construction
boom and skyrocketing demand for workers in a wide range of
trades, including general construction, furniture making,
air-conditioning repair, plumbers, electricians, and
roofers. Workers from across the nation trekked to South
Florida, while prices increased for labor and building
Insurance and construction industry officials in Florida say
a repeat of the post-Andrew reconstruction market is
unlikely because the destruction, heartbreaking as it is,
impacted a more sparsely populated region.
“We haven’t seen a huge impact on us,” said John Chase,
owner of Chase Roofing & Contracting in Fort Lauderdale and
president of the Roofing Contractors Association of South
Florida. “The Panhandle is a separate market, and it’s
covered by roofers in that area or Alabama.”
In this file photo from Oct. 19, 2018, workers begin
making repairs in Mexico Beach, Fla., after Hurricane Michael
slammed into the Panhandle.
So far, the number of insurance claims submitted as
of Thursday from the 15 most heavily affected Panhandle counties —
117,565 — amount to a fraction of the 997,565 claims reported last year
after Hurricane Irma, which was felt in all 67 Florida counties.
No assessment was available this week as to the number of buildings
destroyed by Hurricane Michael. Counts are still underway in hardest-hit
Bay County, where about 1,600 properties have been removed from the
county’s tax rolls, a spokesman for the Bay County Property Appraiser
In the Panhandle, just 57.3 percent of the 117,565 insurance claims have
been closed — leaving 67,374 unresolved. In hardest hit Bay County,
where Panama City and Mexico Beach took the brunt of the storm’s fury,
just 37.1 percent of 70,969 claims are closed.
So far, adjusters have tallied an estimated $2.9 billion in insured
losses from Hurricane Michael in Florida, but that number is expected to
increase over time. Hurricane Irma’s insured losses were estimated at
$10.5 billion in mid-August.
With about 1,500 claims among his 5,500 clients, insurers have responded
generally well following Michael, said Anthony DuBose, president of
Coastal Community Insurance Agency in Panama City.
“The companies have been good about getting money to homeowners
quickly,” he said. “It’s been better than I thought it would be a month
and three days into it.”
Some insurance companies might have sent their most experienced
adjusters to the destruction zone, causing delays in responses to
everyday claims elsewhere, but that’s not unusual following a
catastrophe, said Paul Handerhan, senior vice president of public policy
for the Fort Lauderdale-based watchdog group Florida Association for
Also, Hurricane Michael response efforts shouldn’t have any effect on
the amount of time it will take to resolve 82,449 post-Hurricane Irma
claims — including 38,896 in the tricounty region — that remain open
statewide, Handerhan said.
Michael Peltier, spokesman for state-run Citizens Property Insurance
Corp., said the company “brought on additional independent adjusters to
handle Michael claims without having to deplete our non-catastrophe
adjusting capabilities.” As a result, “we really didn’t see a falloff in
our adjusting of claims in South Florida, including those from Hurricane
As of Tuesday morning, Citizens had received 3,181 Michael claims,
Peltier said. The company received 66,400 claims after Irma, Citizens
While Hurricane Michael hasn’t caused any shortage in availability of
roofing materials in South Florida, limited availability of materials in
the Panhandle has forced contractors to drive into Central Florida to
find materials, said Chase, from the Roofing Contractors Association of
Prices for roofing materials have been rising in recent months, he said,
but mostly as a result of recent tariffs rather than storm-related
Just about everyone in Michael’s path whose home was not destroyed will
need some roof repairs, Panama City insurance agent DuBose said.
Shingles are on back order, and people have no choice but to keep their
temporary blue tarps atop their homes and wait, he said.
DuBose said the real construction work is just beginning, as home and
business owners who were “first in line” to get their properties
adjusted are just now getting their insurance checks and getting
contractors out to their job sites. Laborers have been arriving to the
area with their employers from South Florida, Orlando, Texas, North
Carolina, as well as nearby communities such as Panhandle cities in
Alabama, including Mobile and Birmingham. Local companies, meanwhile,
are beefing up staffs or bringing on more subcontractors, he said.
“They’re trying to take care of what they can and seem to be doing a
pretty good job so far,” he said.
Carol Bowen, chief lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors
of Florida trade association, said that post-Michael rebuilding needs
will exacerbate a skilled worker shortage that “continues to be a
massive problem for the industry.”
“Work has not slowed, demand continues to grow, and we are not seeing
the influx of new entrants into our pre-apprenticeship, craft trainee
and apprenticeship training programs necessary to meet current demands,”
she said. New entries have increased, Bowen added, “but not at the pace
necessary to truly assist the industry.”