Katrina Lands, and Insurance Adjusters Follow
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
It's likely to be many days before officials have a good picture of the overall damage from Katrina. Before the storm hit, forecasters predicted that it could be among the worst on record. But early this morning the eye of the storm veered to the east of New Orleans, and the damage estimates began to fall. Nevertheless, claims adjusters for all the major insurance companies are in place, and NPR's Jack Speer has that story.
JACK SPEER reporting:
Ray Davidson(ph) is a claims adjuster for Hartford Insurance, and for more than 25 years he's been swooping into storm-ravaged areas to help out the way only an insurance adjuster can. He writes checks, though he's not doing much of that just yet.
Mr. RAY DAVIDSON (Hartford Insurance): Well, it's sort of hurry up and wait at this point. But there are a lot of things that we're doing behind the scenes logistically to get people in place and to be ready to be at the right place at the right time as soon as the storm clears.
SPEER: Over the weekend the Hartford and other large insurance companies mobilized their emergency response teams.
Mr. BILL MELLANDER (Spokesperson, Allstate Insurance): In some of the peripheral areas of landfall, we'll be able to have people in those areas today.
SPEER: Bill Mellander is a spokesman at Allstate Insurance.
Mr. MELLANDER: The potential of what could happen in New Orleans is not a surprise to anyone. It's something that everyone has anticipated at some point in time could potentially happen. And we have prepared for this eventuality.
SPEER: The federal government also tries to help people prepare for this kind of event. The government, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, subsidizes insurance companies to offer federally backed flood insurance. But despite the subsidies, it's estimated only around a quarter of homeowners living in known flood zones pay the 3 to $400 a year the insurance costs. As for determining damages from Katrina, the initial predictions cover a wide range. Tom Larsen is with Eqecat, a company that forecasts possible losses for insurance companies. He says based on their analysis, losses from this storm may be anywhere from 9 to $16 billion, far lower than earlier estimates.
Mr. TOM LARSEN (Eqecat): This one is tracking close to a Hurricane Andrew, has the potential to exceed Hurricane Andrew but is likely to be a second to Hurricane Andrew as far as recent large financial events.
SPEER: On the other hand, most insurers also say it is still too early to determine the extent of damage from Katrina. As he prepares to head off to Louisiana, the Hartford's Ray Davidson says he's always amazed by what he sees after one of these storms.
Mr. DAVIDSON: It's always surprising, and it's always--just takes you back just to look at the sheer devastation that Mother Nature can inflict.
SPEER: Jack Speer, NPR News, Washington.
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