The 2017 hurricane season was the costliest season in recorded history, with damages totaling upwards of 292 billion dollars. In comparison, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina which wreaked havoc upon New Orleans and the surrounding area brought about damages in the 159 billion range. With hundreds of thousands of Americans displaced from their home, it was an incredibly busy year for the insurance industry. Ten consecutive hurricanes in a row, the greatest number on record back to back, created a situation in which people had little time to recover from Harvey before Maria and Irma were brewing off the gulf. September 2017 has gone down as the most eventful month in hurricane history and was the first time that two major hurricanes have made landfall in such a short amount of time. For the United States alone, the storms left hundreds of thousands flooded, without power, and with their homes irreparably damaged.
Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and became the first hurricane to directly strike the state since the 60s. Causing 91 deaths, 30 of which were due to the record-breaking flooding that reached an astounding 60 inches in some parts of Texas. Harvey left parts of Texas altered forever and changed the lives of many. Reaching damages estimated around 190 billion, this storm is the most expensive on record, and left a wake of devastation in its path. The great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 however, cost about 20 million, which when adjusted for inflation would have been around 600 billion. With modern technology capable of predicting the path and conditions of the storm, preparations can be made to prevent damage, unlike the storm of 1900—which goes to show how ferocious Harvey truly was.
Following Harvey were Irma and Maria, devastating in their own right to the southern states that they collided into with dramatic force. Irma killed 140 people in the United States alone, a staggering death toll that has rocked the foundation of the communities ravaged by the storm. Irma’s reach stretched farther inland than ever predicted, as she rolled through central Georgia and into the Carolinas. This staggering path shocked many, as the storm lasted a record-breaking 37 hours at its highest intensity.
The hurricane season’s ferocity is attributed to the unusually warm waters in the Atlantic. Ocean temperatures need to reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit in order for a tropical depression to form. Early in the year, it was predicted to lack the heat needed to create a strong season, however by August it was clear that the predictions had fallen through. This was the 3rd consecutive year that systems formed before the hurricane season, and is likely a precursor to the upcoming seasons in the years ahead as we consider the effects of global warming on ocean temperatures and weather patterns.
For those in the insurance housing industry, this all created a frenzy of activity wherein adjusters scrambled to get their policyholders into housing following the back-to-back storms that plagued the southeast. Direct hurricane damage aside, 119 tornadoes attributed to the hurricane activity brought about the devastation on their own. For those displaced by the storms, Temporary Accommodations offered the care that families desperately needed. With whole towns flooded and left without power, finding temporary housing solutions on their own became a feat impossibly unrealistic. In preparation for the inundation of claims, Temporary Accommodations went into ‘CAT Mode’ several times throughout the hurricane season, with workers coming in early and staying late on top of our 24/7 operations already in place, to ensure the families they served could be placed into temporary housing as soon as possible. With claims rolling in at unprecedented rates compared to years passed, the caretakers at TA had their work cut out for them. In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the number of claims broke the precedent for Temporary Accommodations. This past hurricane season, Temporary Accommodations had a considerable percentage of claims that were catastrophe-related. With our headquarters in Atlanta, there was a particular sense of responsibility to those being taken care of, and a neighborly love built between those here helping and those in need of a hand up.
Some of the issues that plagued the hurricane season were finding short-term housing in areas where the rental market was flooded with those in need of placement. For some, placing travel trailers or mobile homes on their property not only provided them with housing but also allowed them to remain close to their homes and afforded them the opportunity to oversee repairs. For a few policyholders, finding temporary homes through neighbors, their church’s congregation, and family helped to quickly place them, while being financed and furnished by Temporary Accommodations. With the furniture rental market stressed to its breaking point in many areas, Temporary Accommodations provided necessities for its many displaced families by driving entire rental home furnishing packages in from out of state, ensuring that families that otherwise would have gone without, had warm beds to rest their heads. For those here at TA, the extra effort was rewarded with the appreciation of our insureds and the gratitude of the large loss property adjusters who depended on us to support their clients.
We honored our promise of hotel placement in an average of 15 minutes, and those who were only temporarily displaced found a safe haven through the hard work of Temporary Accommodations’ many employees. For some areas where hotels had little to no availability, short-term rentals became an alternative option for many. Cabins, vacation rentals, and corporate apartments provided a desperately needed temporary house that came fully furnished and all-inclusive, ready to move in for families that had multiple pets or were simply too large to be put into hotels comfortably. For those whose homes had been damaged beyond repair or needed accommodations longer than a month, our dedicated long-term housing team rebuilt their lives by finding temporary homes comparable to theirs. For the adjusters that were overwhelmed with policyholders that needed immediate placement, Temporary Accommodations provided the relief that was necessary. Serving dozens of insurance companies with passionate performance, the bond between property adjusters and caretakers became even tighter as they braced for the storms of incoming claims together.
Looking to the future and a guarantee of increasing intensity of hurricane seasons to come, Temporary Accommodations plans to expand its offices and bring even more caretakers onto its catastrophe housing team. As we grow with the demand, we look to the future with a positive outlook as we are prepared to face the oncoming natural disasters with efficiency and compassion.