Another hurricane season is fast approaching, but, before the storms start brewing, one developer is looking to get a glimpse at what happens when the storms roll in. Darrell Jones has spent years developing a video-recording system that he hopes will withstand a hurricane and capture video images of a hurricane’s wrath. Jones’ goal is to preserve footage taken during the hurricane to help evaluate the most important question in hurricane property damage cases: was the damage caused by wind or flood?
Anita Lee of the Sun-Herald first reported about the camera system in 2007. This week, Lee provided an update on the camera system that Jones calls the “Eye of the Storm.”
Why did Jones develop the camera system? After Hurricane Katrina’s unprecedented tidal surge and the following wind versus water debate, Jones understood how valuable it would be to know what damages were caused by the wind.
After Katrina, policyholders filed hundreds of wind vs. water disputes against insurance companies that denied coverage, maintaining damage was from storm surge. Policyholders and insurers went to great expense to hire experts asked to determine the cause of losses. The cameras might not pinpoint damage at every location, but they would give insurance companies and homeowners more information about forces at work during a storm.
In windstorm cases where the carrier denies coverage based on the flood exclusion, meteorologists are often retained to try to explain what the weather data shows happened at a loss location during the hurricane. Having the video cameras rolling during a storm could be powerful evidence showing what actually happened at a specific location.
Many people seem to be interested in and fascinated by catastrophic weather. And, many times, people take risks during times of bad weather just to see what is going on. The storm chaser curiosity and property owners’ concern could be remedied by viewing the weather event from a safe location. The 24-hour surveillance camera has recording components that are waterproof, shatterproof and run on batteries for up to seven days.
Darrell Jones, of Ocean Springs, is selling the cameras and looking to set up cameras in coastal Mississippi. As a public adjuster, Jones saw had firsthand how difficult it can be to separate wind damage from tidal surge.
The biggest problem we’ve faced is the insurance company comes in, sees a slab and says, ‘Water did it,’ when we know that is not always the case," Jones said. "The camera takes real-time video footage of your property as a hurricane comes through.
The cameras are built to withstand winds of 300 miles per hour and are encased in 1/4-inch stainless steel with special mountings. Herbert Saffir, the engineer who helped develop the Saffir-Simpson Scale was intrigued by “Eye of the Storm” and thinks the camera’s data could be very helpful to understanding the dynamics of the storm. "That’s one of the problems in most hurricanes," Saffir said. "Very little visual data is available.”
How "Eye of the Storm" will impact future hurricane insurance claims is yet to be determined, but any policyholder who has visual proof will likely make a strong claim presentation.