Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Business

Insurers busy, but worst-case scenario averted for Hurricane Irma

Though damage from Hurricane Irma is extensive, property insurers are breathing a sigh of relief with the storm nowhere near as catastrophic as many had feared.

Citi analyst James Naklicki is estimating U.S. insured loses to be about $20 billion, with totals reaching up to $50 billion. A direct hit to Miami, he says, could have meant up to $150 billion in costs.

As a result, shares in insurance companies that had been hammered in the days leading up to the storm surged Monday, the first day of trading since the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm. Particularly strong are companies with a strong presence in Florida, like Federated National Holding, HCI and Heritage Insurance.

Citi analyst James Naklicki is estimating U.S. insured loses to be about $20 billion, with totals reaching up to $50 billion. A direct hit to Miami, he says, could have meant up to $150 billion in costs.

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Throughout Florida, insurance agents said they would gradually be able to determine damage as the week goes on.

"We are in assessment mode," Cathy Mayo, spokesperson for Allstate, said. "Our priority is making sure our agency owners and our customers are safe and accounted for."

Over the next few days, insurance adjusters will make their way out to areas affected by the storm to determine the extent of the damage to customers' property and help their customers file insurance claims.Allstate will send mobile claims centers to neighborhoods to make adjustments and cut checks when possible, Mayo said.

"A lot of our adjusters are standing by in Mobile, Ala., for roads to clear and the storm to clear," she said. Matthew Hartwig, spokesperson for USAA, also said the company's insurance adjusters will likely be out later this week. "It's probably a couple days away yet for safety reasons," he said.

In the mean time, USAA is sending 4,000 care packages for its employees in the state affected by Hurricane Irma. For Hurricane Harvey, Hartwig said, the company received well over 42,000 claims.

Citizens Property Insurance Co., the state-run insurer, expects to deploy agents within the next two days. To its customers, spokesperson Michael Peltier said, "stay safe and don't go back to your house until it is safe to do so."

Times wires contributed to this report.

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