After Irma damage will come insurance questions (got flood insurance?) 

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After Irma damage will come insurance questions (got flood insurance?) 

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Ben Brasch/AJC
Sunrise revealed a messy, empty downtown Valdosta on Monday morning ahead of Irma's worst for South Georgia.

As Irma – reduced, but still fierce – churns through Georgia Monday, insurers say they are preparing to handle claims that could easily run to many millions of dollars.

While the level of damage in metro Atlanta and Georgia will likely not compare to the destruction in Florida, Irma is still sweeping through the state with high winds and heavy rain, the formula for downed trees, cut power lines and flooded basements.

Or worse.

Officials from the Gwinnett County fire department outline how they’re preparing for Tropical Storm Irma to hit metro Atlanta and Gwinnett County. (Gwinnettt County Fire and Emergency Services/Capt. Tommy Rutledge.)

Monday, of course, was too early to be assessing damage and filing claims. But insurers expect those calls and emails as the wind dies down and the rain lets up.

“Claims adjusters and all necessary State Farm support members are on alert,” said company spokesperson Justin Tomczak.

The company refers initial inquires to a web site with information for people facing storm damage.  

For insurers, the pounding of Florida and now Georgia comes as a special challenge, since residents are still coping with the massive flooding in Houston and the Texas coast.

Allstate is readying a convoy of trucks in Mobile that will head into Florida and Georgia once the storm has passed with experts in damage assessment experts, said company spokesman Adam Polak.

“They are ready to roll to help customers where they are needed,” he said. “Right now, we are still watching the weather television and paying attention and waiting.”

In Texas, the company had 3,800 adjusters, many brought in from out of state. The company doesn’t have numbers here, but Georgia is a large source of business, Polak said.   

The large companies, of course, say they can handle both and provide contact information for customers.

For example, Nationwide has a toll-free number (800-421-3535) and a web site devoted to wind damage

What does the damage does make a difference to getting reimbursed for repairs.

Homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damage. There’s separate policies for flood-related damage, so if you don’t have that, you may have a problem getting financial help for that kind of damage. 

And in many places – even in flood-prone areas like Houston – a large share of homeowners do not buy flood insurance.

According to CoreLogic, roughly 70 percent of flood losses from Harvey in Texas will be uninsured.

Among the 4.08 million residences in Georgia, 12 percent are in places with “high or moderate” risk of flooding but are not required to have flood insurance, CoreLogic spokeswoman Alexandra Hayes said.  

That’s about 490,000 homes.

“Those homeowners can still buy flood insurance should they want it, but a very, very high percentage do not because they don't think they need it,”  Hayes said.

The National Storm Damage Center, which calls itself an independent consumer advocacy organization, says that the process of getting paid for damage is a confusing one.

The group has a web site aimed at offering guidance. 

 

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