Irene Water Damage Worse Than Wind: Poll

By Ben Berkowitz | September 23, 2011

The number of people in the Northeastern United States who suffered water damage from Hurricane Irene is more than double the number who suffered wind damage, an Ipsos/Reuters poll showed Thursday.

Yet two weeks after the storm struck, only 6 percent of Northeastern homeowners had contacted their insurance company regarding that damage, the poll found.

The nationwide survey of 1,009 adults was conducted Sept. 12-15. The results are considered accurate to within 3 percentage points.

Irene, the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States in three years, struck the mid-Atlantic region and the Northeast part of the country Aug. 27 and 28. Estimates of insured damage from the storm vary widely, from $1.8 billion all the way up to $7.1 billion.

Yet there is broad agreement that Irene was much more of a flooding event than many hurricanes, where wind damage is often the major factor.

The Ipsos/Reuters poll found 10 percent of homeowners in the Northeastern states had water damage, while only 4 percent had wind damage.

While wind damage is usually covered in standard homeowners insurance policies, residential flood insurance is almost exclusively the province of the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program. That split can sometimes lead to confusion and delay people in filing claims. Besides the 6 percent who said they had already contacted their insurer, another 6 percent said they had not and were not sure they even would.

Whether they filed claims or not, though, the Ipsos/Reuters poll found people in the region generally thought better of insurance companies after the storm. Some 29 percent of respondents in the Northeast had a “very” or “mainly” favorable opinion of homeowners insurance companies, up from 22 percent who felt that way in a poll a month earlier. The favorability data comes from Ipsos’ monthly “I-Rep Insurance Advisor” survey. Nationwide, though, that sentiment remained flat from one survey to the other.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz in New York, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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