Sunday, September 7, 2008

More post-hurricane news

There's a lot of information coming out in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav. For those who might face a similar natural disaster, I'll summarize some of it here.

First, the flooding was much more severe than anticipated, and took all of us by surprise. It turns out that a great deal of the flooding came in the last hours of the storm, as the final rain bands on the back side of Gustav went overhead. For example, the city of Pineville had a foot or more of rain from Monday afternoon through Tuesday evening, and its pumps coped quite adequately with that volume. However, in the small hours of Wednesday morning, a couple of rain bands came through and dumped seven inches of rain in just two hours. There isn't a pumping or drainage system in the world that could cope with that amount of water, particularly as the ground was already completely saturated and couldn't absorb any of it. It's as if a dam broke.

I remember that particular incident. The roar of water on my roof woke me up, and I couldn't get back to sleep for some time. Looking out of my windows, I couldn't see the road, less than fifty yards from my bedroom! Talk about a gully-washer . . . Later on Wednesday, when I drove to the Post Office to get my mail, I went through hubcap-deep water six times in two miles. That particular road is still underwater in places. It appears that the sudden deluge swept trees and other debris into huge heaps, blocking natural runoff channels, all of which will have to be cleared by hand - only no-one can get to them at present! It's going to take a while.

Then there are those who try to take advantage of others' misfortune. I described some of the "contractors" in my post yesterday. Others are selling generators off the backs of trucks, or in shopping center parking lots. Unsurprisingly, many of these generators are breaking down within minutes of starting them up. Caveat Emptor remains a rule to remember!

Finally, a number of people (including yours truly) have been unpleasantly surprised to find that their insurance coverage isn't nearly as extensive or as comprehensive as they thought it was. It seems that many companies have changed their policies since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, often "disguising" the changes in annual letters that no-one bothers to read. I certainly didn't pay enough attention to mine! Items once covered, such as removing trees that are damaged, or paying for food lost due to one's freezer defrosting after a power outage, are no longer insured. This is going to cost me a couple of thousand dollars of my own money, to pay for cleanup and other expenses that I thought would be covered under my policy.

It's my own fault, of course. I should have paid more attention to those innocuous-seeming annual "disclaimer" statements mailed out by my insurer. However, I know there are many thousands of others in the same boat at this time: and in future disasters, there will be even more. Friends, if you have insurance on your home and/or property, now would be a very good time to review the policy, down to the last clause, section and paragraph, and make sure you understand what's covered, and what isn't. There have been some significant changes in standard policies over the past couple of years, and what might once have been covered may be insured no longer. It's worth checking on it now, before you need to submit a claim.

For those interested in further reading, here are three links to local newspaper articles dealing with these matters:

They're worth reading to prepare yourself for any natural disaster in your area, no matter how unlikely that may seem.



Murphy said...

Ouch, another expensive lesson. Sure wish there was a way to submit a policy holder amendment to the contract, something with really fine print, lengthy pages, and huge upgrades to policy finalized should it not be responded to...

Anonymous said...

Knowing about those coverage reductions would not have helped you. I am pretty sure all the companies did it. I am fortunate to have grown up using a chain saw and only have to pay the pros for trees that need to be removed before falling (on the house) or that are tangled up in power lines (but Entergy will take care of most of that).

Assrot said...

Glad to hear you survived okay. I can tell you from experience that if all you lost in a hurricane was a couple of thousand dollars you did pretty good.

Yes, the insurance companies have become sharks since about 2004. You really have to read the fine print these days. I am lucky enough that losing a couple of thousand dollars doesn't hurt me too bad. It stings a little but I just take it in stride.

I know there are many folks that can't get by after losing a couple of thousand dollars. Most of the folks down here in Florida that were in that condition applied to FEMA and got disaster relief funds that reimbursed them most of what they lost.

If you're really in bad shape and need the money, it might be worth looking into. I know dealing with the government and FEMA is a royal pain in the rear and it will probably take a few months to get anything but if you are really hurting, you might want to give it a try. Many of my neighbors did and almost all of them (except for the ones with ridiculous claims) got most of their money back.

I make a little more money than the average Joe (though not much more, I'm far from well off) so I just bit the bullet each storm and left the FEMA money to the folks that truly work hard just to make ends meet.

I'm praying for and wishing you folks have a light season for the rest of this year. It looks like you might get some weather from Hurricane Ike. Florida dodged the bullet on that one for now and it looks like it's going to ground right at the Louisiana / Texas border.

Good luck to you folks and let's all hope for a weakening of Ike. Maybe we'll all get lucky and it will fizzle out. It's not likely though once it gets over the Gulf. It will probably strengthen and either make a beeline for Louisiana or turn a hook like Wilma did back in 2005 and come back across Florida from the west.

I'm hoping the best for all of us in hurricane country.

God bless,