Insurance Questions

Question and Answers About Insurance Claims

What your insurance does not want you to know about wind damage during flood events! Did your home insurance company say that they would not cover your losses because they are not responsible for flood damage? Do you have wind damage BELOW the flood line? Here’s how to make a case for the insurance company to cover that damage. Geologist David Jungblut, teacher and author of It’s a Monster Hurricane! (Hurricane Katrina Study). The book is about his study about wind and water damaged properties during Hurricane Katrina in the above at and below the flood line.

Question: How did you help homeowners in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina?

Answer: I studied the effects of Hurricane Katrina including considerable on-the-ground field research and have developed a number of techniques to help to determine what happened to dwellings during the storm, which helped me to teach homeowners follow the destructive paths of Hurricane Katrina’s powerful wind and water. My findings indicate that while many houses were destroyed by just water or just wind, vast numbers of dwellings were destroyed by both wind and water. Determining the direction that the wind hit your property versus the direction that the water hit is very important to demonstrate that wind damaged your property during any hurricane.

Question: Can you explain the Tracking Techniques that victims of Superstorm Sandy can use?

Answer: To determine if your house was affected by wind, wind and water, or just water the following tracking techniques can be invaluable to your understanding of what happened to your property.

  1. Take pictures of all the damage to your property and your neighbors’ properties, especially the trees. Note any scars on the tree trunks.
  2. Go to Google Earth or get a US Geological Survey topographic map of your property, neighborhood and surrounding area.
  3. On your map, draw the damages by putting an “X” on any house damage, and drawing lines where the trees fell, including an arrow to show the direction of their fall. Mark if there was a scar on a particular side of the tree.
  4. Can you see a pattern of trees falling in a similar direction along a fairly straight path through your map? OR does it look like a giant foot stepped down in the center, pushing all the trees outward, creating something like a circle or semi-circle?

If you answered yes to either question, you may have been the victim of downburst or microburst or straight-line winds.

Question: What are Downbursts, Microbursts and Straight-line winds?

Answer: Downbursts are wind events that happen when the atmosphere is unstable and the air literally falls from the sky. The really large downbursts are called macrobursts, while the smaller, precision downbursts are called microbursts. These mircobursts can be as small as a raindrop, but they can still cause damage if they are moving fast enough. The best way to understand what downbursts are is to compare them to tornadoes. Both have a touchdown vortex, but tornadoes spiral upward to the sky while downbursts spiral down to the ground, just like the water draining from the bathtub spirals down the drain. Tornado paths are formed by air turning into wind as it is pulled into the vortex. While downburst paths are formed by air being pushed down in straight-line winds that radiate outward from the vortex, like a pitcher of air being poured out on the ground. Straight-line winds are jet-like streams of air that typical can move at a rate of 60-120 miles per hour or even faster. Obviously, wind that fast can cause serious damage, knock down trees and even chop a tree in half and blow the top away.

Question: How can homeowners determine if their property was damage below the flood line by wind or just caused flood or a combination of both?

Answer: Well, if the wind caused damage that let the water in, it’s storm damage. If the water forced its way in, it’s flood damage. How do you tell the difference?

  1. Did you have damage to the roof, shingles or vinyl siding? That’s wind damage.
  2. Did you have water coming up through the floor boards with minimal exterior damage? That’s flood damage.
  3. Did you have holes in the siding below the flood line? Could be that the wind let the water in.
  4. Did the flood come from the right and the holes in the house appear on the left, or vice versa? Those holes are most likely wind damage.
  5. Are the contents of your home piled up or scattered around? If they are piled, that’s probably just flooding. If they are scattered, the wind was at work in your home.
  6. Look at your foundation. Does it look like the house was twisting during the storm? Scratches, bent nails, boards ajar, foundation damage could all be indicators that the wind was heading one way and the flood was moving the other way.
  7. Does your roof have holes in it? This may indicate upward lift, which is likely the result of wind stress.

Question: Can a homeowner use other techniques to determine what happened?

Answer: With a little work, the answer is yes. The Geological Principles of Relative Dating can be used determine relative order of events that took place during a storm, by showing that different layers were deposited at different times. This can be tricky, but generally speaking, if you have layers of debris, this could be a sign of multiple instances of wind and/or flood. Each time the wind blew or flood came through, another layer was deposited. It is best to think of the debris as including parts of houses, cloth from clothes, along with normal mud, sand and tree sediment. If you see two or more different directions, document by taking pictures and have a professional investigate because it may be possible for them to determine a relative time line of the events that happened at your property from the debris and sediment deposits. They can feel free to refer to information on this website.

Questions: Are there lessons that have helped students understand these forces during the storms?

Answer: Yes, and homeowners also, one of the lesson is called ‘Microburst, Straight-line Winds and Storm Surge Flooding Lab’. You use a leaf blower, tub, clothes pins, and water, and then test model houses to downburst and straight-line winds. See the picture.