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Not having a hurricane plan can be disastrous

June 27, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The images were unmistakable. Mile-long lines at the gas station, traffic nightmares on I-75 as millions of people tried to evacuate, and people fighting over sheets of plywood or toilet paper and bottled water.

This was the scene in the days before Hurricane Irma pummeled the area. Much of this happened because many people were underprepared as the storm approached.

Brian Avery of Allstate Insurance spoke to the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce members at the organization's monthly business leaders luncheon at the Smokin' Pit last week.

In the past, Avery has spoken about protecting your business. This time, his talk was more about personal preparation, which has been a common theme after Irma.

It was mostly a laundry list of things residents should and shouldn't do in the event of a major storm. He also asked people to think what the best plan for them might be: stay home or evacuate.

Avery said common thinking would say that those who live in A flood zones should evacuate and those who don't live in flood zones can stay home.

"The areas that got the most water was in areas out of flood zones such as Lehigh Acres, where the roads and yards were flooded for weeks after the storm," Avery said, adding that 25 percent of all floods happen in so-called "non-flood" zones.

If you are staying home, Avery said to be sure you gas up the car, fill the gas cans for the generator and get propane so you can cook. Most important, have your documents in a safe place.

If you evacuate, do so early to avoid the chaos that happened on the roads just before the storm, where it took 15 hours or more to get out of Florida.

"There was no plan for people who left. It caused huge problems on the roads. There were crashes, all the hotels were booked in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, all the gas stations ran out of gas and many people were stuck on the road," Avery said.

Avery said this was caused by sensationalism regarding the storm, including predictions of a 15-foot storm surge and Category 5 winds - none of which happened. To be be fair, though, it did produce the desired result as nobody died locally.

Regarding insurance:

Make sure it's up to date and know what is covered and what is not. Make sure you know the amount of coverage. If you have a $250,000 policy and the house is $400,000 and is totaled, you could lose everything.

Make sure you have flood insurance. A flood policy has a moratorium on them, usually 30 days. Most of Florida is susceptible to flooding, as much of it is only five to 10 feet above sea level.

Homeowners insurance will not be sold to you if a storm is imminent, and if there is water damage, it will not be covered; it only takes an inch of water to devastate a home.

"Not having insurance on a flood plain can be life changing. Many people get wiped out," Avery said. "A home is five times more likely to suffer flood loss than in a fire."



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