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What to do if your house floods from Hurricane Idalia

Storm surge could leave Tampa Bay homeowners with severe property damage.
 
Flooding seen at Palmetto Beach in Tampa  as Hurricane Idalia approaches the Big Bend region on Wednesday, August 30, 2023.
Flooding seen at Palmetto Beach in Tampa as Hurricane Idalia approaches the Big Bend region on Wednesday, August 30, 2023. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Aug. 30, 2023|Updated Aug. 30, 2023

Homeowners across the Tampa Bay area are coming to terms with devastating flooding in the wake of Hurricane Idalia. Storm surge swelled as high as 4 feet, and water levels could continue to rise as an afternoon high tide comes in.

If you woke up this morning and discovered a foot of water in your home, don’t panic. Here’s a guide for getting your house cleaned up and navigating flood insurance after the storm has passed.

Make sure it’s safe

Use common sense. If the water is high enough that you risk injuring yourself, then leave.

You’ll also want to cut the power to avoid electric shock. Don’t attempt to shut off the fuse box if you have to travel through water to get to it. When in doubt, contact a professional electrician.

Document the damage

“Get out that iPhone and take as many photos and videos as possible,” said Trevor Burgess, president and CEO of Neptune Flood Insurance.

This will help you show your insurance company the severity of the flooding and make it easier to file a claim.

Call your insurance company

Unfortunately, homeowners insurance will not cover flooding caused by storm surge or rain. You’ll need flood insurance, which, according to Burgess, only about 15% of Floridians have.

Most policyholders are covered through the National Flood Insurance Program, though there are several private providers as well.

If you have insurance, call your agent and explain what happened. They will assign an insurance adjuster to survey the damage. That could take a week or more, especially following severe storms.

Even if you have flood insurance, make sure you know exactly what’s covered. Most flood insurance policies only cover the home itself, not the lawn, the pool or anything outside and around the home. Belongings inside the home may not be covered, either, unless you’ve added contents insurance as part of your flood coverage.

Prevent further damage

Before the insurance company can help, “You do have a duty to try and protect your home and protect things from getting worse,” Burgess said.

Start moving any items that can be salvaged to dry land. Be very careful when handling electronics.

Remove waterlogged carpets and furniture that could cause mold to grow.

Bail or sweep out as much water as you can.

Open up windows and turn on fans to air out the house and prevent mold.

Call contractors

Don’t wait for an adjuster to come to the house — get started finding professionals who can help straight away.

Water restoration companies will help pump the water out of your home. If you were not able to dry out the house quickly enough, you may want to consider calling a mold specialist as well.

Get quotes from multiple companies before signing a contract.

Collect receipts for any repairs you have done to submit to your insurance company.

Follow up with the insurance company

Even after an adjuster has surveyed the damage, they may reach back out with follow-up questions. It could take four to five weeks to calculate how much your policy will cover. If your home has been totally destroyed, it could take even longer.