The Junior Teen Leadership at Small Middle School.
story and photo by Ann Fowler
OAK HILL – Hurricane Harvey may be gone, but if Katrina is any indication, the impact will last for decades. From estimated sustained winds of 130 mph at landfall at Rockport, Texas, to nearly 50 inches of rain dumped on portions of the gulf coast, Texas was hit hard.
According to AccuWeather, this storm may be the most costly natural disaster ever in America, costing more than hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined: $190 billion.
Oak Hill resident Mark Hanna is the spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, the largest state insurance association in the United States. His son and wife evacuated from Houston and will stay with him until floodwaters recede.
Hanna said, “Many people had no flood insurance on their homes because they had never seen the effects of a 50-inch rainfall. Flooded rivers, streams and bayous set record levels.”
Drivers lacking comprehensive auto insurance may be left stranded, Hanna said. And he advised people not to attempt to start a car that was submerged as it can create more problems. Hanna suggests having a reputable towing company bring the vehicle to a reputable mechanic who can determine any damage once the engine has dried out.
Hanna lists lessons learned from the historic storm:
Homes built to the state’s stronger building code held up better and with minor to moderate damage compared to homes not built to code.
People who did not evacuate where the storm made landfall all say they would never again want to ride through another hurricane.
Most likely only 1 in 6 homes in the Houston area had flood insurance. No telling how many motorists did not have comprehensive insurance.
Hanna said the uninsured can seek help from the Red Cross, Salvation Army, churches, family friends and neighbors. FEMA may offer possible financial assistance, but that could be months away.
Hanna offered the following suggestions:
The claims process and filing deadlines for Harvey-related damage did not change on September 1.
Claims for policies under the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and the National Flood Insurance Program are not subject to recent changes in property damage litigation laws, despite recent assertions to the contrary.
Contact the agent or company who sold you the insurance policy to file a claim.
Many insurers may be available in the damaged areas. Check to see if your company has a response team near you.
Document property damage with photos and video as soon as possible and provide this information to your insurance adjuster.
Make temporary repairs if necessary to prevent further damage. Keep receipts for repairs and document all communication with your insurer.
Neither a homeowner’s insurance policy nor a renter’s insurance policy provides flood coverage. Flood insurance is a separate policy.
A flood insurance policy can be sold by any insurance agent, but the coverage is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program.
To insure your vehicle from flood damage, you needed comprehensive insurance coverage.
The Texas Department of Insurance Consumer Protection Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 can provide needed information on agents and insurance companies as well as resolve insurance complaints.
Austin’s lessons learned
The city of Austin set up shelter for 700 evacuees, although it was prepared for 7,000. A ‘mega-shelter’ at the Austin Convention Center was planned but ultimately unneeded.
Said District 8 Councilmember Ellen Troxclair, “Flexibility has been a key tool in what has made the City a great partner with the state, other cities, counties and agencies in adapting to what is needed and supplying it. Going from planning for up to 7,000 evacuees to scaling down to 1,500-2,000 has been an excellent exercise in being prepared, but reacting quickly to accommodate changing circumstances.”
Added Troxclair, “I was born in Houston and still have family and friends there who have lost their homes. It has been an amazing sight to see our community, state and country come together for a bigger purpose, helping neighbors.”
Students get drive started
Oak Hill area schools were not impacted by the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, save for a one-day, two-hour delay. But students wasted no time in planning donation drives to help those who were affected by the storm.
Dr. Cathryn Mitchell, principal of Gorzycki Middle School, said the student council set up a donation drive. She added, “We have also been working with Bee Creek United Methodist Church who is working with Burger Center, as well as Park Manor nursing home, who received evacuees.”
Austin Independent School District (AISD) spokeswoman Cristina Nguyen told the Gazette that children evacuated to the Austin area will not miss any school time. “AISD has already begun enrolling students at the shelters in Austin and plan to welcome all evacuee students into AISD.”
In addition, all evacuee families were welcomed to watch varsity sports events last weekend free of charge.
At Small Middle School, the Junior Teen Leadership classes led by Kevin Mullen, David Juarez and Shaun Hopkins, compiled a list of items suggested by the American Red Cross and Austin Pets Alive. The students challenged their peers to bring in as many of the items as possible.
Principal Matthew Nelson said they partnered with Yeti.com, whose staffers picked up hundreds of pounds of donations to deliver to the affected areas.
Said Nelson, “Our kids all wanted to contribute in some way or fashion and we are blown away by their compassion and enthusiasm to help. We are excited that Yeti reached out to us and offered a direct channel to get our collected goods into the right hands.”