FEMA: Flood insurance claims for Irma near
17,000 in Florida
Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
September 25, 2017
If your home or business was damaged by storm surge
or flooding during Hurricane Irma, National Flood Insurance Program
director Roy Wright wants you to know how to get as much money as you
can as quickly as possible.
Once you get back into your home, “take pictures of everything,” Wright
said by phone from the Florida Keys on Friday. “Zoom in on brand names,
model numbers and serial numbers.”
Document as much damage as possible.
Victims with the most thorough documentation, he said,
get the biggest emergency assistance checks — up to
$20,000 — to help cover temporary housing and clean up.
Money to cover further clean up and to rebuild will come
later, after claims are filed and insurance adjusters
inspect the property, Wright said.
Wright, who oversees the flood insurance program as the
Federal Emergency Management Agency’s deputy associate
administrator for insurance and mitigation, toured
damaged areas of Florida throughout the week, including
Miami and Coconut Grove on Tuesday, Naples and Bonita
Springs on Wednesday, Jacksonville and St. Augustine on
Thursday and Marathon and Big Pine Key on Friday.
Still believe you don't need flood insurance?
The worst flood damage he saw was in the Keys,
including a house in Marathon where water broke through
hurricane-resistant impact glass and rose five feet. When it receded, it
pulled the home’s furniture out through the doors. “They found it two
houses behind them.”
Of 16,786 flood claims filed through Thursday, 3,969 were filed in
Monroe County, Wright said. He expects that number to increase over the
next two weeks. “Sometimes people will wait until the electricity comes
back on to file,” he said. “We tell people to file their claims after
it’s safe to go back.”
In the tricounty region, Miami-Dade residents have
filed 1,870 claims, 829 have been filed in Broward County and 199 have
come from Palm Beach County, according to FEMA data.
Wright said none of those numbers are surprising. “Plenty of other
storms could have caused those kinds of losses,” he said.
Other counties with large numbers of flood insurance claims are Duval
[1,514], Lee [1,426], Collier [1,364] and St. Johns [1,153]. Fewer than
200 claims have been filed in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Charlotte
counties — an example of how the Tampa Bay region was spared the severe
impact feared by forecasters.
Jeff Grady, CEO of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, said he
expected more flood claims to have been filed by now, considering the
images of widespread storm surge in the Keys and the Jacksonville area.
“That also speaks to the fact too many people just don’t buy it,” Grady
said. After Hurricane Harvey caused widespread flooding in the Houston
region, an Associated Press analysis found just 42 percent of homes
across Florida’s 38 coastal counties were covered.
Images of Harvey spurred a a sharp rise in flood insurance sales, but
policies purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program require
a 30-day waiting period and weren’t in effect before Irma.
Some were able to buy private flood coverage with waits as low as three
days, Grady said.
Wright said none of the flooding from Irma’s storm surge remained in the
homes he toured around the state this week.
He saw “pockets” of damage in Miami-Dade County, but nothing consistent
along the waterfront. Coconut Grove had flooding but Coral Gables did
not, he said.
In one Coconut Grove home, water rose 10 inches before receding, leaving
six inches of muck throughout, he said. After the mud is shoveled out,
the bottom four feet of drywall will have to be replaced.
Residents with flood insurance are insured up to $250,000 for their
structure and up to $100,000 for contents, but not every claim will
qualify for the maximum, he said. Typically a $30,000 to $40,000 claim
will be paid out in 30 to 40 days while larger claims involving more
extensive damage will take between 70 to 100 days, he said.
FEMA has about 1,000 adjusters working on claims in Florida, Wright
said. In Texas, which sustained much more severe flooding from Hurricane
Harvey, 2,600 adjusters are working on about 90,000 claims, he said.
FEMA doesn’t have a network of repair contractors, so policyholders are
responsible for making sure companies they hire are licensed and bonded,
Wright said. He suggested policyholders seek help from their insurance
agents and avoid signing over benefits of their claims to contractors
who refuse to commence work otherwise.
Irma provides a dramatic example of why people should buy flood
insurance, Wright said. After severe flooding struck Louisiana last
fall, the average payment from the National Flood Insurance Program was
Homeowners who did not have flood insurance got an average $9,000 from
FEMA disaster relief funds. Uninsured flood victims in Florida should
“Those with insurance will be able to rebuild more fully and more
quickly,” he said.