Hurricane, now Tropical Storm, Harvey isn’t done with Texas. It appears it will move away from Houston in the next few days but not before leaving Houston with up to another 18 inches of rain bringing the prospective total to about 50 inches. The winds whipped Corpus Christi, Rockport, and Port Aransas topping out somewhere between 130 and 140 miles per hour. Adding to the destruction was the storm surge which was 6 feet above normally dry ground in Port Lavaca for a whopping 7 hours.
The damage from the storm isn’t over either, due to the flooding and ongoing rain in Houston. This will only worsen in the next few days or week as the Corps of Engineers releases water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Several groups have published early damage estimates ranging from $30 to $100 billion to Texas coastal communities. These estimates include the economic impact from people not working to insurance claims, to damage not covered by insurance. The real numbers, however, won’t be known for several months.
There are two types of insurance claims caused by Hurricane Harvey, hurricane or wind claims and flood claims. Let’s examine both in detail and what policies cover each type.
Hurricane Claims: Hurricanes can cause three types of damage; wind, storm surge, and heavy rains. Home insurance, or separate wind insurance from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), provides coverage for damage resulting from hurricane force winds or tornadoes spawned by the hurricane. If your home or business suffered wind damage, file your claim with your insurance carrier or TWIA. Cover what you can with tarps to prevent further damage until repairs can be made. Keep copies of all receipts as damage prevention measures are covered by most carriers.
Flood Claims: Storm surge and flooding due to rising water is not covered by home or renter’s insurance policy. Only flood insurance covers damage to your home and/or contents from storm surge or rising floodwaters. Hurricane Harvey reminds us why having flood insurance is so important, even in non-mandatory flood zones. Most people who suffer flood damage don’t have flood insurance. If you have water in your home and have flood insurance, please initiate a flood claim, even if you can’t get to your home.
There is some good news for people without flood insurance. They may qualify for Federal Disaster Assistance. President Trump has agreed to Governor Abbott’s request for many south Texas counties to be officially named as natural disaster areas. This begins the process for Federal Disaster Relief to be made available to victims of the storm.
The next step is for Congress to provide an amount of funds which will be available to Texans in need. It may take days or a few weeks, but I believe Congress will move quickly to provide an initial amount of relief funds. Once that’s done, the process to apply for relief funds will be announced and probably handled by FEMA. If history is repeated, people without flood insurance, as well as those with, may apply for assistance. Keep in mind, these are usually handled as loans, not insurance payments or gifts.
On Thursday, I’ll write about filing a flood insurance claim and steps to take when returning home after floodwaters have receded. If you found this information helpful, share it with someone impacted by the storm. If you have questions, comments, or experiences to share, please post them on my Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!