WASHINGTON - Insurance claims adjusters fanned out across Maryland to
assess damage from Hurricane Isabel on Friday, but industry executives said
it could be a week before the total cost is tallied.
The Insurance Information Institute has estimated that damage might total
$1 billion over all the states that were in Isabel's path.
"It's truly a preliminary estimate," said Carolyn Gorman, vice president
of the institute. "It's going to take probably a week or so to get any kind
Gov. Robert Ehrlich's office could not estimate the cost of damages in
Maryland, but a spokesman said Friday that Anne Arundel County, Baltimore
City and eastern Baltimore County were thought to be the hardest hit.
"We can't get into a lot of the buildings to assess the damage. So we
have to drain the buildings to do that," said Henry Fawell, a spokesman for
Claims adjusters, meanwhile, got down to the work of assessing the damage
"What our representatives will do is take the most serious claims and
work their way down. Safety is extremely important and we may not be able to
get into an area right away," said Jo Ahalt, spokeswoman for the
mid-Atlantic office of State Farm Insurance.
Gorman agreed that adjusters will "be seeing the people who have been
hurt the worse first." Her institute said that hundreds of claims adjusters
from other states had come to look at Isabel's aftermath. Some brought
laptops and satellite vans to aid their work.
"It still remains a triage operation," Gorman said.
She said people whose homes were too damaged to live in, or who had a
tree or trees on top of their homes, could expect immediate financial
assistance from their insurers.
"It depends, of course, on the nature of the loss. If it doesn't keep
them from living in their homes, it's not going to be as much as it would be
for someone with major damage," Gorman said. "They'll give them in some
cases an ATM card with money on it."
President Bush released federal funds Friday for disaster relief in
Maryland, declaring a "major disaster" in those areas of the state affected
"When you're named a disaster area, the state becomes eligible for up to
75 percent of the total storm cost," said Fawell.
According to Maryland National Guard Maj. Charles Kohler, the Guard had
evacuated over 200 people in Anne Arundel County, the Eastern Shore and La
Plata as of 4 p.m. Friday.
He said 600 Guardsmen were called up to respond to Isabel. By Friday,
they had checked on senior citizens in 300 homes in La Plata, provided
helicopters for federal officials to assess parts of central and Southern
Maryland, and provided a tanker truck to Anne Arundel County in case its
water treatment facility stopped functioning again.
In other areas of the state, the claims were much lighter than expected,
"We expected a whole barrage of claims and fortunately, people, I guess,
were well prepared," said Regina Price, an agent for Erie Insurance Group in
Rockville. "We had just a few claims for trees and that's about it. Lawn
furniture and things like that."
Price added that she did have a couple claims from businesses with
commercial freezers where the food was spoiling due to power outages.
"It was just sort of strange because where we are, it wasn't that bad,"
-- CNS reporter Bethany Broida contributed to this report.
2003 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of
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