Adjusters Prowl Through Miss. Coast Shambles; Television Reports Called an ‘Understatement’

September 12, 2005

Insurance adjusters now trudging through the rubble along the Mississippi coast report they have never seen such massive destruction: houses totally demolished, businesses destroyed and especially heavy damage in Biloxi.

“Where Hurricane Katrina came ashore, everything is totally gone,” one adjuster told Insurance Journal. He lamented the loss of many irreplaceable Biloxi landmarks, like the historic home of Jefferson Davis in Beauvoir, Miss. Many such landmarks were located close to the Gulf, where a massive wall of water, estimated by many to be more than 40-feet-tall, washed right over them.

“What everyone has been seeing on television is an understatement,” said one adjuster. “I’ve been in the claims adjusting business more than 30 years and seen some of the worst catastrophes, but Hurricane Katrina is 100-times worse than any I disaster I have encountered.

“I’ve been to tornadoes in Oklahoma, forest fires and earthquakes in California and the four hurricanes last year in Florida, but this damage makes all the rest seem minor. There has been so much destruction it will take months to evaluate all the claims and years to rebuild.”

Near Biloxi on the Mississippi coast, a 40-foot tidal wave came ashore, drenching everything in salt water. Adjusters have been evaluating damages to what is left of homes and businesses eight to 10 blocks from the Gulf, which were flooded by 25 foot waves. He feels lucky because his job is only to estimate the actual damages, and not to decide on the relevance of the claims–doubting that many of the claims will be covered because few people have flood insurance, and a tidal wave doesn’t fall under the terms of wind policies.

For more than a week, adjusters have been driving from accommodations in Alabama into Mississippi to visit claim sites, because there isn’t anywhere to stay closer to the area. Each morning it takes three or four hours to drive across I-10 into Mississippi, and three hours to drive back. They have been encountering heavy stop-and-go traffic in many areas where the roads and especially bridges took a major hit from Hurricane Katrina. Now that they have more experience in the area they are finding alternate routes to avoid the heavy traffic they encounter on the Interstate highway.

Unlike elsewhere in the U.S., adjusters driving to claims in Mississippi and Louisiana report it’s easy to buy gasoline and the price, $2.50 a gallon, is reasonable compared to other parts of the U.S. where there are gas lines and higher prices.

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