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Experiences of Hurricane Matthew as an Insurance Adjuster

Hurricane Matthew was the first chance of deployment for many adjusters. While we all watched the models of Hurricane Matthew with great anticipation, Hurricane Matthew stayed a few miles off the Atlantic coast from Florida to the Carolinas.

Hurricane Matthew was the largest in years and thus probably the first deployment for many new adjusters.

This by no means meant that we had no destruction and damage, but it was far less damage than if it would have been on shore. For the most part, the damage stayed within a 25-mile strip covering the coastline. I had the opportunity to work in Savannah, GA, where they had reported 85 mph sustained winds for two hours.

The worst damage in Savannah was from the massive trees that were uprooted from the slow moving storm. Since the storm was slow moving, the rain had a chance to saturate the ground with water, which softened the soil around the trees. Couple that with 85 mph sustained winds and you have a recipe for disaster. Trees were blown down in great numbers all around the Savannah area. Those who stayed for the storm witnessed trees whipping back and forth throughout the night. While many held firm, there was significant tree loss when the root ball would loosen in the saturated soil.

Several lost their life in the storm from trees crushing them in their homes. Others had stories of narrow misses in rooms they just walked out of as trees came through their roofs.

Arriving at the Storm

The main thing I wanted to share here, though, is what to expect as new adjusters arriving in a storm area such as I walked into when I showed up in Savannah, GA.

Flooding was affecting South Carolina, but thankfully Savannah had no flooding from the storm except some very small isolated areas. The first thing I was faced with was the lack of hotel rooms. The storm hit on a Friday and I arrived on the following Wednesday. By the time I got there, the city was crawling with tree companies and power companies.

The first order of business for the restoration of the city was to restore power which was out to at least half the city at some point during the storm. I stopped at a Walmart when I first got to town. They were vigorously stocking shelves. It was the first day back in business for them and they were running the entire store on generators. Many of the street lights had a generator chained to a pole to provide power to the traffic lights. By the next Friday, power had been restored to 90% of the city and the rest following quickly.

I was able to find a hotel room, but the price was at a premium. I was paying a little over $100 per night. After a week, the price came down close to $70. All hotels in the area were at full capacity. I did have an option to move out of town and save $30-$40 per night initially, but that would have meant sitting in traffic 1.5 hrs each day. Remember, being an adjuster, your life is all about efficiency. I had no issue staying close in town to where all my claims were and paying a small premium for that efficiency. Gas was no problem during this storm as it has been with others.

The Claims

So what about the claims? The claims in Savannah were good. You had a large mix of damage. Some damage was minimal only having a few shingles blown off and food loss of the refrigerator from the power loss. I would say that accounted for 40% of my claims. Another 40% I would categorize as minimal damage that was a bit more expensive though–finding things such as 3 sheds crushed by a single tree or an entire roof slope damaged beyond repair. They were not very involved claims, but they paid well due to the dollar amount of the damage.

The remaining 20% would be what I consider extensive damage. I had several homes with large trees lying on top of the roof. In every instance, though, the damage was isolated to the roof structure and didn’t impact the walls of the homes. The biggest surprise I had were the prices charged to remove a large tree off a house. I had bills that ranged from $3,500 to $10,500 to simply remove a tree from a house or shed with a crane. The stance of the carrier I was working with was this: If they had an invoice or bill for the tree removal from the structure, we paid it. So when you add the tree removal bill to the actual damage to the structure, some of these claims got expensive quick.

While most adjusters don’t struggle with replacing siding or shingles, I noticed several getting lost when it started affecting the interior framing of the house.

I can tell you it is daunting at first to rebuild a roof structure, but after a few, it’s really quite simple. You simply “stick build” the rafter to repair the integrity of the foundation of the roof, then you replace the decking and then address the shingles just as you would during a hail storm with drip edge and ridge.

As we always instruct you as an adjuster, though, come up with a method and flow with how you address any claim so nothing is missed. As adjusters, we are never perfect, but practice makes us better. Every seasoned adjuster has a “flow” of how they address all claims. The biggest mistake is to jump around from area to area only to be sitting in your hotel room scouring pictures for that bit of information you forgot to gather on the inspection. We have all missed getting that crucial measurement or forgetting to verify the slope of the roof.

Lessons Learned

Long story short, though, Savannah was a great deployment although a bit short. The claims for this storm only lasted 2 weeks on the short end. Sure, several will be there for months, but the heavy lifting of getting claims handled was done in the first two weeks. The damage wasn’t as extensive as initially anticipated.

When the storm hit, our phone at 2021 Training started ringing with people who wanted to hurry up and get their license and go work Hurricane Matthew. Heed our warning! Get your license NOW, so when the next big storm hits, you are ready. The time is now to get your insurance adjuster license. 2021 Training makes it extremely easy since all our adjuster training courses are online. We provide quality training at a fraction of the cost of live training. Our training continues to focus on the end goal of making you a quality adjuster. That means more to us than just giving out a piece of paper.


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