It has been over a year since Hurricane Ida blasted out of the gulf and ravaged the shores of the U.S. gulf coast, devastating the bayou communities of southern Louisiana. The towns and cities are still trying to recover as the horizon darkens with the possibility of more storms coming their way.
Hurricane Ida, a category 4 storm, thrashed parts of South America and lashed the islands of the Caribbean. It made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, 2021, ripping through Louisiana with intense, damaging winds.
But the storm did not quit there. It pounded its way across the southeast to the northeast, wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. According to data from the National Hurricane Center, it was the state’s most damaging hurricane since 2005’s Katrina. The storm took the lives of 30 Louisianans and is to blame for 87 American deaths.
Daily, thousands of locals must face the storm-beaten communities of Louisiana. The roofs of home after home are gone, partially or fully, replaced with sun-bleached tarps. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers line clearings just outside of town. Office buildings sit empty with collapsed roofs. Plywood covers the broken windows of closed and boarded-up stores.
Hurricanes displace the citizens of affected areas. Sometimes, relatives gather and live together. Some leave, abandoning the region for safer ground. Some have no other choice than to seek refuge in FEMA trailers.
The Storm’s Aftermath
The obvious damage has created an apocalyptic landscape around the citizens of the impacted bayou and coast, but as this debris is cleared and the waters recede, additional damage caused by the hurricane is still being discovered.
Rebuilding has been a slow process with the hindrance of economic owes like inflation and supply chain issues. Along with a litany of vexing issues, there has been a lack of qualified building contractors in the area.
Some insurance companies are refusing to cover some or all storm damage. Some have closed local offices and moved out of the state, presumably because of the large amount of storm damage they have covered. Still, others are refusing to insure the people who lost their insurance.
Start Corporation is a local non-profit organization that is helping rebuild Louisiana’s bayou and coastal communities. They offer health and housing services and work to get the region back on their feet.
Start Corp. reports that anxiety and depression run rampant in situations like these. In the wake of a storm, citizens of disaster areas bear psychological scars, often experiencing conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
These anxious feelings of helplessness only heighten when people are trying to rebuild while finding even more storm damage under the surface while bracing for another storm to sweep in and cause even more damage.
The accumulated stress of the people must be spiraling out of control with all the economic woes, while so many are engaged in ugly battles with insurance companies.
Finding Shelter from a Storm of Red Tape
It is important to get ahead of a storm before being affected by a natural disaster like the next hurricane. In the aftermath of a storm, time works differently. The atmosphere becomes chaotic. Health and safety are the priority and cleaning up the mess and getting back to normal seems to be the only goal.
There is a process that should be followed when the cleanup begins. It helps to know it before the storm comes ashore. The following to-do list should immediately be done after a disaster:
- Take pictures and videos of all storm damage before cleaning up.
- Make temporary repairs if needed to prevent more damage or loss and secure your property – i.e., board-up windows, tarp roof holes, dry wet carpets, and other possessions.
- Keep receipts for repair materials and log all completed repairs.
- Remove items affected by mold but do not discard anything until an adjuster inspects it.
- Wait on permanent repairs until the adjuster is finished with his inspection.
- File a claim for Additional Living Expenses (ALE). This provision of a homeowner policy is intended to cover the extra cost of being displaced.
Those affected by a disaster but do not have insurance, are under-insured, or anyone struggling to meet a storm deductible, FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) can help in some instances. Although it is not an insurance replacement or a safety net to replace what was lost, IHP assistance provides necessary expenses and basic needs for eligible households and individuals.
Filing Claims and Supplement Claims
The insurance company should be contacted as soon as possible. Review the policy, know the coverage, and be cognizant of the time limits for filing claims. Insurance adjusters usually come out to inspect damage within 30 days. Typically, flood damage is not covered by a homeowner policy, so a separate claim needs to be filed with the flood insurance policy.
Know the storm deductible – the out-of-pocket expenses needed before insurance pays a claim. Typically, it ranges between 2% and 5%. After a claim check is received, it should be cashed. Cashing the claim check does not mean that is all that is coming. The initial claim payment is what the insurance company thinks it owes after an adjuster’s assessment. More money can be asked for after the repairs have commenced.
A supplemental claim should be filed if more damage is found or if the damage is more extensive than previously documented in the initial adjustment. Supplemental claims can compensate for new-found damage or additional costs associated with the original claim.
Additional adjusters may be needed to assess the new damage. Pictures and videos of the damage should already be made and turned over to the adjuster. Repairs should not be made to the damage before it is documented. In most cases, insurance coverage allows for up to two years from the initial damage to file supplemental claims.
Multiple supplemental claims can be filed. Sometimes, even more damage is found when a contractor begins to repair the damage. All the storm damage should be repaired, not just what it is on the surface.
For general questions regarding insurance policies, the Louisiana Department of Insurance Office of Consumer Advocacy (LDI) can be contacted by phone at 1-800-259-5300, option #4. For grievances about the handling or processing of a claim, complaints can be registered at the LDI website.