Ivan Not Finished With U.S.; I.I.I. Reports on Florida Hurricane Damage

September 18, 2004

While he lost his hurricane designation several days ago, what was Hurricane Ivan continued to bring misery to the United States, spawning more tornadoes and drenching areas from Georgia up through Pennsylvania in the last 24-48 hours.

Several individuals were dead after being hit by falling trees and floods that washed away numerous roads. In the meantime, searchers were checking damaged areas looking for residents who became stranded by the storm.

Nearly 12 inches of rain pounded parts of North Carolina on Friday, while West Virginia and parts of western Pennsylvania also became soaked as Ivan dropped what was left of his fury on residents there. Thousands of customers were reportedly without power in the three states.

Residents from eastern sections of Pennsylvania on up to New England began their weekends on Saturday with umbrellas in hand as rain hit the area.

Tornadoes, meantime, in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, reduced buildings to rubble and caused a number of injuries, while flooding and mud slides closed a number of roads.

In North Carolina’s Piedmont area, a tornado destroyed several homes and damaged numerous other ones. No serious injuries were reported.

Ivan and what was left of it as it headed north was blamed for 42 deaths in the United States, 16 of them in Florida. The storm also resulted in 70 deaths in the Caribbean.

Meantime, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reports that about one out of every five Florida homes has been damaged by a hurricane so far this year.

The Institute expects the total number of claims will exceed one million, surpassing the 700,000 claims filed for Hurricane Andrew and setting a new record for the number of claims in such a short span of time.

The I.I.I. stressed that while the insurance industry has sufficient financial resources to pay the claims, the historic one-two-three punch of Hurricanes Ivan, Frances and Charley will make the claims handling process in Florida more difficult.

“Ivan, Charley and Frances together do not pose a solvency-threatening event to the industry,” Robert Hartwig, chief economist of the I.I.I., commented “However, the unprecedented challenges created by the multiple hurricanes understandably will strain resources and cause some delays that would not normally occur.”

The industry will be working hard in the face of the same obstacles faced by its customers – lack of power, phone service and access to properties in some severely damaged areas, Hartwig observed.

An estimated 15,000 insurance company claims adjusters from across the United States and Canada are now in Florida to speed the claims settlement process. Additional adjusters are in Alabama and other affected areas.

Hartwig noted that adjusters necessarily will be prioritizing their visits by severity of damage, calling at the most seriously damaged properties first and getting to less damaged locations later.

The company claims adjusters will write checks to pay the costs of temporary housing for people whose property was damaged by the storm and to begin the rebuilding of damaged homes and businesses.

Some companies also will reportedly be opening emergency claims centers to assist their policyholders. Policyholders should contact their agents or call toll-free emergency claims numbers. Customers who have left their homes should tell their insurance agent or company representative how they can be reached.

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