Donovan Brown: It has been 8 1/2 years, but it only takes one storm

Eight and a half years is a long time. Since October 2005, The Colbert Report spun off from The Daily Show and aired more than 1,200 episodes; Pluto was downgraded to dwarf planet status; Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, introduced the iPhone with seven generations following after, and the last hurricane to impact significantly our state made landfall in Florida.

While we welcome new residents to Florida with open arms, many have never experienced a hurricane or tropical storm. As new residents to the state, some individuals may not be aware of the sheer destruction and disruption resulting from such a catastrophic storm.

Due to the span of time since the Florida storms of 2004 and 2005, some residents that did experience tragedy from those storms may have forgotten, intentionally or not, those storms’ effects. Yet others who lived through the storms may remember their impact like it was yesterday. Irrespective of personal experience, the message remains constant – in Florida there is always the possibility for a major storm to develop and cause massive amounts of damage in a short amount of time.

Just a few weeks ago, in the Florida Panhandle, we witnessed what a major rain storm can do and the long-term struggle of recovering from such an event. It’s a crucial reminder that any storm can spawn severe weather, tornadoes, torrential rainfall and significant damage.

Recent predictions for a mild hurricane season may give some a false sense of security and lull them into complacency regarding storm preparation. While we always appreciate predictions, we must vigilantly remember they are just that – predictions. No one really knows for certain whether or not Florida will be devastated by a hurricane or tropical storm this season. It’s also important to remember it’s not just a hurricane that can cause damage. A significant rain event can cause catastrophic flooding and storm surge.

For example, in 2004, Frances made a final landfall in the Florida Big Bend region as a tropical storm. However, the storm produced a storm surge of nearly six feet, which caused heavy rains and even freshwater flooding over much of the Eastern United States. But, it wasn’t just rainfall that caused damage. Frances also led to an outbreak of more than 100 tornadoes throughout the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. The damage caused by Frances is estimated to be near $8.9 billion, with the substantial portion of the damage occurring right here in Florida.

Three weeks later, the same area was hit by Hurricane Jeanne, with maximum winds near 120 mph at the time of landfall causing additional extreme rain accumulations. While Jeanne weakened as it moved across Central Florida and eventually through Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia, it still caused heavy rains to move through those areas. In the United States, damage from Jeanne was estimated to be near $6.9 billion.

These are two examples of storms that may not have been in the media spotlight like Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy, but they are examples of storms that caused billions of dollars in damage and uprooted many lives.

With the start of the Atlantic hurricane season in sight, now is the time for residents of all coastal states to practice preparedness for any 2014 storm event. The insurance industry is ready to take care of your claims and assist you in rebuilding your life when Mother Nature shows her ugly side.

As a reminder, it’s wise to speak with your insurance agent prior to a storm event and ensure you have the right amount of coverage for your needs. Ask if you should consider purchasing flood insurance, as most homeowners’ policies do not cover flooding and it must be purchased as a separate policy. Keep in mind that there’s typically a 30-day waiting period between the date of purchase and when flood coverage takes effect.

Also, remember to create or update your personal emergency plan, including information concerning where to go and what to do if your family is forced to evacuate.

Prepare your property for hurricane season by fortifying your windows, doors and roofs. Make sure you have some cash readily available and at least a half tank of gas in your car in case an approaching storm makes a quick turn knocking out power or forcing evacuations sooner than anticipated.

Maintain a detailed inventory of your possessions, including receipts, descriptions, and photographs of your home’s contents. A home inventory will help ensure that you’ve purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions, as well as easing and expediting the claims process with your insurance company. A detailed home inventory also will be helpful if you need to apply for disaster aid.

Lastly, stay informed by purchasing a weather radio so you know if a storm is approaching. Investigate and download disaster readiness and weather monitoring apps from sources such as the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Insurance Information Institute.

Reviewing and updating your insurance policy before a storm strikes will allow you to take the proper precautions to safeguard you, your family and your future plans against financial catastrophe.

Remember, it only takes one storm to completely transform a community, neighborhood or individual life.

Donovan Brown is the state government relations counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America ( Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Guest Author


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