The storms that struck overnight Wednesday left parts of Central Texas with significant flood damage, and by Thursday insurance agents were already fielding calls from homeowners.
As of Thursday afternoon, State Farm, the state’s largest insurer, had received more than 45 homeowner claims and more than 84 auto claims from Travis, Hays, Williamson, and Bastrop counties, concentrated around Austin.
“We’ve gotten reports of damage throughout the San Antonio area down through Houston,” said Patti Kelly, a State Farm spokeswoman. “We expect these numbers to increase as customers call their claims in. We have gotten reports of flooding, lightning, wind damage and some power outages.”
Farmers Insurance had 37 property claims and 12 auto claims in the last 24 hours in the greater Austin area, the company said.
Flood insurance isn’t covered by standard homeowners’ policies, but it is available under a federal program and is sold through commercial insurance agents. Experts say that, nationally, only about 10 percent of homeowners have flood coverage.
In Texas, however, the percentage is higher, with about 20 percent of Texas homeowners buying flood insurance, said Mark Hanna, spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas.
According to the National Flood Insurance Program, there are 9,060 flood insurance policies in effect in Travis County, with $2 billion in liability. In Hays County, there are 805 policies with $203 million in liability, and 1,804 policies in Williamson County, with $456 million in liability.
Hanna said flood claims have been spread across the Austin area.
“It’s your low-lying areas for sure, but a lot of places will flood simply because maybe of some construction nearby or changes to the backyard,” he said.
Allstate agents are also getting “a reasonably significant volume” of calls, said Bill Mellander, spokesman for Allstate’s National Catastrophe Team.
Allstate had already designated Central Texas as a catastrophe area because of recent wind and hail damage to the area. That procedural move allows the company to dedicate additional resources to the area, especially agents who specialize in dealing with severe weather.
“Our priority right now is getting to as many people as we can, as quickly as we can, and being safe,” Mellander said.
The recent flooding is a wake-up call for homeowners, he said.
“There are a lot of Central Texans who unfortunately are going to have a very rude awakening – either today, tomorrow or the next day — when they realize that they need flood insurance,” he said.
If you have damage
* Promptly report the claim to your insurance company.
* If possible, make temporary repairs, such as putting tarps or plastic sheeting over roofs and boarding up broken windows.
* Remove soggy items to prevent mold growth in your house.
* Take photos and video of damage.
* Make a list of damaged property, including descriptions and age of the items.
* Save receipts from temporary repairs and cleanup efforts.
* If you need to leave your home, make sure your insurer knows how to reach you.
* Require repair contractors to provide proof that they’re licensed and insured. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau (austin.bbb.org).
* Get descriptions of repair work and cost estimates in writing. Never pay for repairs in advance.
* Get your insurance company’s approval before major repairs.
Source: State Farm, Better Business Bureau