Insurers Dealing With Flooded Homes and Submerged Cars in Texas

May 28, 2015

Suffering its wettest month on record, many parts of Texas are still recovering from the most recent severe storms and flooding. To date, Houston’s Hobby airport recorded 12.34 inches of rainfall while Sugar Land, located just outside Houston, recorded 17.79 inches of rain establishing a record for the wettest May on record.

Catastrophe modeling firm, AIR Worldwide, noted the rains ended five years of extreme drought in some areas of the state.

The Memorial Day storm that occurred Monday evening into Tuesday morning was the latest storm to lash areas of the state with hail, tornadoes and flash flooding.

According to AIR, a slow-moving low-pressure system traveled across Texas, producing thunderstorms and heavy rains in the western Houston metro area. Within a few hours Monday evening, six to eight inches of rain had fallen across the area from these mesoscale convective systems. The torrential rains was attributed to a large feed of low-level moisture pushing into the region from the Gulf of Mexico, combined with the slow movement of the storm system. “Training echoes”—successive downpours that occur over the same area due to slow storm movement in the same direction as the storm’s axis of orientation—broke out across the region.

Flood levels in many parts of the region have exceeded record levels. Several bayous have broken their banks.

The Bianco River, which reaches flood stage at 13 feet, rose 26 feet within an hour and crested at more than 40 feet. The Trinity River in Dallas rose above its 30-foot flood stage to more than 40 feet on Sunday night as continued rainfall prompted the National Weather Service to extend flood advisories along the river until Thursday or Friday.

With some major freeways blocked by flooding and hundreds of vehicles submerged or abandoned, travel was discouraged. More than 80,000 people lost power in the Houston area, and hundreds of homes were flooded. West of Houston in Wimberley, one of the worst affected areas, more than 350 homes along the Blanco River were washed away by flash floods. A search is ongoing for several people who were swept away by the flood waters in Wimberley, the ICT said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Houston’s roadways and many of its neighborhoods have also been flooded. According to the ICT, Wichita Falls recorded over 14 inches of rain making the month of May its wettest month ever according to records dating back to 1897. The city’s Wichita River crested on May 24 Corpus Christi also recorded the wettest May with rains totaling 13.41 to date. The previous record was 9.21 inches set in 1941.

Austin reported the wettest April (19.82) and May (16.72) ever recorded with rainfall for both months totaling 36.54 inches, the ICT said. Only one other month, September 1921, had more rainfall recorded with 20.78 inches. The city’s Shoal Creek crested on Memorial Day flooding downtown businesses.

Insurers are beginning to see claims as result of the flooding.

“Our CAT Teams will remain throughout the region until all claims are reported and resolved,” said Bob Miller, GEICO’s regional vice president of Texas operations. “Our policyholders are facing severe conditions and losses.”

Farmers Insurance has sent catastrophe adjusters to provide assistance to customers in the areas impacted by the storms, according to Rod Harden, head of catastrophe claims for Farmers Insurance. The company expects more than 13,000 claims across seven impacted states including Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. Insured damages stemming from these series of storms are likely to total nearly $105 million.

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