Miss. Congressman Claims Wind, Not Flood Damage; Supports Natural Disaster Insurance

January 24, 2006

Gulf Coast property owners need hurricane or natural disaster insurance to cover destruction caused by Mother Nature, not flood insurance, according to Mississippi Congressman Gene Taylor.

Taylor is suing State Farm Insurance because his home in Bay St. Louis was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the company says the damage was done by water, not wind.

Taylor’s plight mirrors that of thousands of South Mississippi residents who had homeowners insurance but were told they didn’t need extra protection from flooding.

Now, people who didn’t have flood insurance are being told the damage was caused by water, not wind, and homeowners’ policies typically don’t cover water damage, even when the water is driven by wind.

“I cannot find the words to express my anger and disappointment at the way insurance companies have treated the people of South Mississippi,” Taylor told the Biloxi Sun-Herald. “I think the right thing to do is change the name of the (federal) program… (but) I wish the private sector would have stepped up and solved this problem.”

Taylor spoke last week to a U.S. House subcommittee and a Senate committee and said the National Flood Insurance Program is paying claims, but not enough people have it.
He also wants to raise the $250,000 cap on the national insurance.

“It doesn’t matter if it was wind or water,” he told the subcommittee on housing during its hearing in Gulfport recently. “If a person had insurance, their payment ought to be based on damage.”

If the national program were changed to cover damage from natural disasters, property owners throughout the country could get insurance for hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornados and ice storms.

Taylor doesn’t serve on the House’s financial services committee, but he hopes someone on that committee will sponsor a bill when Congress goes back in session Jan. 31. He also wants support from his colleagues in the Senate, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.

Lott’s spokesman, Lee Youngblood, told the Sun-Herald the senator, whose home in Pascagoula was destroyed by Katrina, has been open to most ideas that would help South Mississippi residents.

“I think he’d want to look at this and consider it,” Youngblood said.

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