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Insurers begin taking stock of Hurricane Irma's damage


Date: September 15, 2017
Source: Tampa Bay Times
Author:  Malena Carollo


TAMPA — Now that Hurricane Irma is behind us, insurance companies are deploying mobile claims centers around the state to help customers begin the long process of funding repairs. But while some property owners are facing a months-long process to rebuild, it could have been far worse.

"Fortunately, Tampa did not take the direct hit that many were fearing," Matthew Hartwig, USAA spokesperson said.

USAA sent seven mobile claims centers around Florida and up to South Carolina to address damage the storm caused to policyholders' property. Its Tampa unit, nicknamed "Eagle Two," set up shop Thursday morning in a Walmart parking at 1505 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.

Although catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide has estimated insured damages from Irma could range from $25 billion to $35 billion, Florida officials have not yet given details on the total number of claims filed statewide. Contacted Friday afternoon, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said it was too early to give a count.

For USAA specifically, claims from Hurricane Irma across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina totaled around 30,000 as of Thursday, Hartwig said. Following Hurricane Harvey, the company received 40,000 claims. USAA does not disclose how many policyholders it has.

Because Tampa Bay was largely spared, the claims USAA has received are fairly "low severity," said Aubrey Thomas, catastrophe response logistics director for USAA.

The most common claim in the Tampa Bay area thus far is food spoilage, she said, because of the widespread power outages. Policyholders are also reporting minor wind damage and damage to fences. Absent from the claims pool are significant flooding claims. Thomas said USAA is only seeing minor rain or water damage.

"Those seem to be small pockets," she said.

More claims are likely to come as people return home from their evacuation locations to assess damage to their homes. USAA does not have a projected number of claims it expects from Hurricane Irma damage.

As of Friday morning, Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run company that insures those who cannot find coverage on the open market, counted 21,015 claims across the state related to Hurricane Irma, spokesperson Michael Peltier said. The insurer anticipates receiving about 125,000 claims.

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.