Hurricane Michael may have left Florida’s shores, but residents are only just beginning to assess the damage. Authorities have confirmed that at least 25 people have lost their lives in the storm, and search teams are still looking for survivors as cleanup efforts continue across the Panhandle. Insurance claim attorney Bill Voss examines the problems facing residents and business owners after the hurricane, as well as remedies for those hit hardest by the storm.
Why Hurricane Michael Recovery May Be Delayed
On October 10, Hurricane Michael made landfall on the northwest coastal strip of Florida near Mexico Beach. Weather services recorded winds of 155 miles per hour and a storm surge of seawater 14 feet in height. While cleanup from the storm may take weeks or months, the area hit by the hurricane is likely to see significant losses due to:
- Property damage. Wind and rain destroyed as many as 95 percent of homes in Mexico Beach, according to the city manager. In nearby Lynn Haven, an estimated 80 percent of homes were leveled by the storm, while every home and business in Panama City reportedly has been damaged or destroyed.
- Business losses. Countless restaurants, rental beach houses, gas stations, and other family-owned businesses have been destroyed or severely damaged. Police have confirmed that convenience stores and small shops were looted within hours of the storm’s landfall.
- Damage to schools. As many as 26,000 Bay County students have been displaced due to the destruction to primary, middle, and high schools in various cities. Authorities are still determining the best way to get students back into classrooms as well as how to provide psychological counseling for those struggling with loss.
- Power outages. Massive power outages from Florida to Virginia have left more than 435,000 customers without electricity across several states. An estimated 80 percent of customers across the Panhandle were without electricity a week after the storm due to downed trees affecting power lines, with officials stating that power may not be fully restored for weeks.
- Communications interruption. Overloaded networks have slowed cell phone service to a crawl in many areas, hindering search and rescue efforts and making it difficult to communicate with insurers and humanitarian services.
Relief for Hurricane Michael Victims
Many residents cannot live in their flooded homes due to health risks, but must brave the floodwaters in an attempt to salvage the property and their belongings. Insurance companies may be unwilling to cover damage caused by standing water, placing the burden of cleanup on homeowners who are struggling to survive. Those who are able to live in their homes may not have running water or sanitation, while some have been forced to camp in tents with what little belongings they were able to recover.
While there are relief options available, hurricane victims will have to work quickly to get the help they need. Victims may be able to seek payment through:
- FEMA assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been at the scene since the storm retreated, performing evacuations, rescues, and home checks on Hurricane Michael victims. The agency also performs structural assessments on damaged properties, has designated teams to help people register for disaster assistance, and have aid stations set up throughout Florida and Georgia to provide food and water to residents who have limited access to supplies. In addition to distributing over 4 million meals and 5 million liters of water to victims, FEMA has approved $1 million in assistance for Floridians across 12 counties who have been affected by the storm.
- NFIP policies. Traditional homeowner and business insurance policies will not cover water damage caused by flooding. Owners will have to seek payment for storm surge damage from their National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies, which are likely to be delayed due to the high number of claims filed after a hurricane.
- Insurance claims. Homeowners are advised to file claims with their insurance agencies as soon as possible to minimize damage and begin rebuilding. Unfortunately, some homes will need to be completely rebuilt, and building plans may need to be updated to prevent similar damage from occurring in the future. Some owners may not be able to rebuild with the small settlements offered by their insurance companies, forcing them to sell their land.
Our attorneys work to get victims full and fair payment from insurance carriers after a hurricane. If you need help with any hurricane damage insurance claim for your home or business following Hurricane Michael, please contact the Voss Law Firm at 1-888-991-3212 or simply fill out the form on this page today.