Hurricane season is officially over for 2010 and we dodged another bullet. From June 1 until November 30th, those of us living in coastal communities held our breath as 19 named storms churned in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. 2010 earned the distinction of being number 3 on the list of largest number of named storms. Of the named storms, 12 were a hurricane which also ties a record for the 2nd most hurricanes with 1969. Danielle, Earl and even Igor tried to peak our interest earning a category 4 on the Safer-Simpson Hurricane Scale. As an insurance agent who sells auto insurance and home insurance and having survived Hurricane Hugo, a category 5 storm in 1989, I am always keenly aware of the damage these monsters can do if they hit land. Hugo struck historic Charleston, South Carolina on the evening of September 21, 1989. There was no dodging that bullet. Hugo was dead ahead and pointed directly for my city.
During the morning of September 21, the National Weather Service issued hurricane warnings for Charleston. The city was in a panic with thousands of cars heading west on the interstates leading out of Charleston. I was at my insurance office covering all of our computers with large plastic garbage bags to protect them in case water leaked from the roof. While working on this the UPS delivery truck pulled up and the driver had a package for us. My first instinct was to refuse the package and make them deliver it again after the storm passed. Instead I accepted and package which was the best alternative since this was our first FAX machine. Having a fax machine at our office in 1989 was a luxury and it was incredibly useful after the hurricane when we had to send hand written claim form to our insurance company adjusters.
The aftermath was devastating. Being in the insurance business, almost every homeowner had a claim on their homeowner’s insurance policy and many on their flood insurance. I am not sure of the exact statistic but almost every building in Charleston had roof damage. Back in 1989 homeowner insurance policies had very low deductibles compared to today. Many clients had deductibles of $250 to $1000 for their home and that covered almost all the wind damage, additional living expenses and for many spoiled food. Since Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005, deductibles have risen rapidly. Most homeowners in coastal areas have a special deductible for hurricanes (wind damage) that ranges from 2% to 10% of their property value. On a $500,000 home the deductible would be $10,000 to $50,000! Not the $250 deductible of yesteryear. That is just for the homeowner’s insurance policy. There is another deductible for the flood insurance and that is compounded since the flood deductible applies separately on the house and the client's personal property. We handled hundreds of auto insurance claims for cars that were damaged by flying debris; trees falling on them and flood damage. All of this spells high anxiety for those of us on the coast in South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana and all the other coastal states in the eye of the storm. We dodged another big one this year and our collective anxiety level has dropped until we get ready for June of 2011 and another storm season!