Could there be a worse time to have a hurricane or tropical storm than the summer and fall of 2010? Given the extraordinary warmth of water this early in the hurricane season and the ongoing BP oil spill catastrophe, policyholders and public officials need to start taking immediate steps to prepare for two catastrophes which are greater than their sum. Jeff Masters, of WunderBlog, is discussing the possibility that a tropical depression is currently forming in the Atlantic. Those in the Gulf Coast have one eye out for the increasing probability of a hurricane while also watching for the spread of oil.
There are some lessons from experience that all can apply as we get deeper into the summer months. First, purchase flood insurance. As noted in our Condominium Insurance Law Blog post, FEMA Clarifies Position: Flood Waters Mixed With Oil Will Be Covered, National Flood has told everybody in advance that it will pay for additional costs of oil if floods or storm surge carry oil with it during a hurricane. Do not underinsure the amount–be safe and err on the side of overinsuring your structure because my experience is that most underestimate how much repairs costs. Think of the additional costs associated with removing oil if you have a problem paying a little extra to follow my advice.
The only problem is that you might not be able to purchase flood insurance right now. As noted yesterday in Industry Groups Urge Congress To Extend NFIP, Put Politics Aside:
The official start date of the Atlantic hurricane season was June 1, but no flood policies have been issued or renewed because the National Flood Insurance Program has expired, said two insurance groups, calling for a long-term extension of the program.
The NFIP expired May 31, resulting in the third lapse in the ability to purchase flood insurance coverage this year.
As a result, no NFIP policies can be issued or renewed until Congress reauthorizes the program, and existing policyholders cannot increase their coverage limits during the program’s hiatus, which is particularly troubling for those who may be impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill should a storm occur, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) said.
Second, review all your coverages with your agent. Insure to full value and especially consider whether you have sufficient code upgrade coverage. Discuss whether your policy covers damage from wind blown rain and whether your business policy has sufficient loss of earning coverage and forms for dependent losses. Some of these coverages are discussed in Nationwide Insurance Commercial Customers Should Check Their Policies for Dependent Property Lost Income Coverage and Oh My Cheese! What Can Dairy Farmers Teach Us About Contingent Business Coverage? — Understanding Business Interruption Claims, Part 7.
Third, harden your structures by repairing roofs, painting, and glazing or caulking openings, doors and windows. These are the most cost effective protective measures that can be taken. They will even help prevent loss during severe rainstorms.
I am writing this post late Monday night, flying home from Destin, Florida. I was in Pensacola earlier, and debated for BP contributing to a $20 billion oil spill trust fund on Fox Business News . Cash is the lifeblood to businesses. If BP does not get money it owes to Gulf Coast businesses soon, business death in the form of bankruptcy will quickly occur to many businesses with resultant harm to employees and their families.
In Destin, the City council convened an emergency meeting which I attended. Fishermen reported oil slicks 4.5 miles from Fort Walton Beach. Given this development, Destin City Hall was the scene of democracy in action. Out of frustration, the Okaloosa County Commission defied federal officers and voted to take self help measures to preserve their water and beaches, claiming they would willingly go to jail, rather than do nothing.
For those who may be critical of President Obama for alienating the British regarding the BP Oil Spill, I suggest that the people of the Gulf Coast really don’t care. The Gulf Coast way of life has been damaged and more is threatened by BP’s lukewarm reaction. Earlier in the evening, elected County officials joined the angry crowd and took measures into their own hands. They voted to take action not approved by the Federal Government. One official threatened use of their own police to implement their own remedy and battle BP oil spill responders.
Others not from the southern coastal states should get the feeling that many local leaders and people of the Gulf Coast don’t care who is upset. They require any action which will keep the oil out of their local waters and off their shores. They are tired of hearing nothing can be done to fight the oil. A comment was made at the emergency meeting that people from Washington D.C. and Chicago don’t enjoy or go on the water or beaches, but spend their time in fancy restaurants. To say that there was "anger in the air" caused by frustration would be an understatement.
While observing this, I thought about the already warm water and the season’s first tropical wave possibly forming in the Atlantic. It has been my experience that misfortune happens at precisely the wrong time. Since the precisely wrong time for a hurricane to strike the Gulf of Mexico is over the next several months, Bob Dylan’s immortal lyrics come to mind…"It does not take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
Prepare for the worst. Hope and pray for the best.