The Logistics of Disaster
As l said yesterday (see my blog, “Three Days To Disaster”), though l live in Lauderdale, which along with Miami, the Keys, and Palm Beach, are right now at the epicenter of Irma, the most destructive storm ever to hit the continental United States, l have chosen, l think wisely, to remain here at the Pennsylvania home l share with my ex and which l have spent the past summer and was just ready to leave when Irma reared her ugly head. Since hurricane season runs from May to December, every summer l leave the house with shutters up and lawn furniture in as if a hurricane were going to hit tomorrow.
Well, now that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Okay, my house had to pass a number of structural codes and standards enacted after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 in order to be covered for hurricane Insurance, but does that mean that a house built when Lyndon Johnson was President will be able to handle the one hundred eighty miles an hour winds of Irma? And even if my roof isn’t blown off, will my house be flooded from the street or on the canal side? Or will my screen patio enclosure which has been rescreened twice just since I’ve owned the house but with the original aluminum framing dating from the sixties, a place where l spend most my daytime hours and do most of my writing, become a pile for the junk dealer?
Coming to grips of possibly losing everything in a matter of hours isn’t easy, though philosophically l wonder if this is God’s way of cleaning up my house early. After all won’t most of my possessions end up in a dumpster when l die anyway?
But an even greater nightmare may be the logistics of disaster, dealing with the claims adjusters, the contractors, FEMA… Already stretched by Harvey, the companies and government will have to hire an army of temp workers to handle the avalanche of cases that will appear overnight, help that will have fast track training and little experience.
So just because you have a hole in your roof and maybe the spare bucks to get it at least half assed fixed while you wait for the elusive check from the insurance company, will you be able to find a contractor who knows his stuff and isn’t swamped, or isn’t one of those opportunistic charlatans who will be flooding the state looking for easy marks, desperate homeowners? Or if you’re a tenant, how much haranguing will you need to give your landlord to fix your leaking ceiling or non-functional toilet while he’s waiting for his insurance check to come through?
And while my 2009 Honda Element is with me as l wait it out here in PA, what happens to all the thousands of cars that may be trashed by Irma?
Will smaller companies with minimal reserves file for bankruptcy and stiff policyholders? Will the reinsurance market designed to deal with this itself go belly up? Did anyone ever program in two major disasters back to back?
Last l heard, orange futures were up at prospects a good portion of Florida’s orange groves, which are the second largest producer of orange juice in the world after Brazil, may be wiped out. What will happen to insurance rates across the country after a double whammy duo like Harvey and Irma?
FEMA has already burned through its budget with Harvey. Will there be anything left for Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, all U. S. soil?
And what about the future Harveys and Irmas?
FYI: The hurricane season is still young.