Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Millions of homes may have been damaged by Tropical Depression Florence, which swept through the Carolinas just over a week ago. With flood waters still high, it’s hard to assess the damage just yet; still, an economic research firm put out a preliminary estimate that Florence has caused around $40 billion in damage, according to CBS News.

With more flooding possible, officials are warning people in certain areas of South Carolina that they may still need to evacuate. Once they return, they’ll begin the arduous process of rebuilding.

Flood Insurance Basics

Only about 340,000 of the estimated 7 million homes in North and South Carolina have federal flood insurance, according to CNN.

Yet only flood insurance, not regular homeowner’s insurance, will cover damage done by extreme weather. And as more of those events occur, it makes increasing sense for more homeowners to purchase flood insurance, even if they don’t live in a flood-prone area, according to Consumer Reports. “More than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk flood zones,” according to FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Flood insurance will cover essential systems—like electrical, air conditioners, fuel tanks, water pumps, etc.—appliances, carpeting, and personal items like clothing, furniture, etc., not stored in the basement. (For a complete list of what’s covered, see this article.)

There is a cap of $250,000 per building and $100,000 for belongings for federal flood insurance coverage, and deductibles for buildings and contents that differ depending on your policy. You can buy flood insurance from the NFIP, or through a private insurer. Prices will vary depending on the year of your home’s construction, the number of floors, its flood zone and more, according to FEMA.

What to Do If Your Home Was Damaged

If you sustained damage to your home during Hurricane Florence and need to file a claim, here’s what to do:

  • Wait until you are given the all-clear to return to your home. Though the hurricane has come and gone, it’s still dangerous in many parts of the Carolinas because of the flood waters.
  • Once it’s safe, get in touch with your insurer, which will assign someone to assess the damage done to your property.
  • Before the insurance adjustor arrives, make a list of everything damaged or lost in the storm. “Take photographs and write down each item’s purchase date and estimated value,” suggests CR. If you have receipts, that’s even better. Make copies of everything before you hand them over to the adjustor.
  • Show the adjustor all of the damage and get their personal information so you can contact them in the future if you need to.
  • Take notes on every interaction with your insurance company, including dates, time, names of who you spoke to, etc.
  • The adjuster will provide you with “a proof of loss form, a copy of the building damage estimate, and any personal property inventory list,” according to FEMA. If you agree with what they’ve proposed, you’ll sign the proof of loss form in order to receive payment. You can submit an amended proof of loss form later on if you find additional damage, or repairs cost more than you initially thought they would.

“The adjuster may hand you a check on the spot to cover immediate costs like the replacement of clothes and medicine,” writes CR. “But it could take weeks to get a full estimate of your damages and a final check.” You should receive an estimate in fewer than two months.

And watch out for scammers, including adjustors and contractors. They’ll take advantage of your vulnerable state.



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