As claims handlers across hurricane-prone South Florida, accurately attributing property damage to either high velocity winds or surging flood waters represents a constant yet crucial challenge. The cause here – wind or water – dictates pathways for reimbursement through either standard homeowner’s insurance or federal flood policies. Yet extreme weather events often inflict hybridized destruction obscuring the original source.
Over the years of adjusting complex claims, however, I’ve honed an ability to meticulously differentiate wind versus water triggers across battered homes even when blended perils are at play. The proper causation breakdown provides substantial financial ramifications for South Florida policyholders depending on allocated percentages. That’s why remaining impartial yet eagle-eyed proves so pivotal.
In this blog, I’ll share insights all adjusters should remember when deciphering damage types across the region’s storm-ravaged properties. Mastering these technical skills not only upholds our duty of honest, ethical assessments but also maximizes recovery potential for already distressed homeowners relying on our expertise during chaotic times.
Spotting Signature Wind Damage Signs Despite the “boiling sea” effect of hurricanes producing prolific rainfall and flooding, the most extreme structural and exterior destruction often derives from intense wind forces. And over years of surveying storm aftermaths, telltale wind patterns stand out upon closer inspection:
- Uni-directional roof cover and structural member failures based on wind approach angle.
- Paneling and soffit destruction focused on the windswept side, especially at building corners.
- Impact damage from wind-borne debris – trees, bricks, etc. – leaves irregular holes versus waterlines.
- Uplifted shingles without washout erosion on the underside surface.
- Lateral window, door damage radiating out from high pressure points.
Concentrated destruction on building fronts, edges, and protrusions aligns with winds’ aerodynamic damage tendencies versus general soaking of walls/contents from floods. Distinguishing between granular roof asphalt scouring by winds versus algae discoloration from moisture also informs evaluations. Always keep an eye out for one-way weaknesses signaling extreme wind gust peaks.
Evaluating Floodwater Movement Clues Unlike tempest gusts concentrating force, floodwaters follow laws of physics – seeping through cracks and filling spaces based on elevation and containment shape. Analyzing waterlines left on interior walls, cabinetry and furniture therefore hints at progression direction during submersion stages.
Wicked hurricane storm surge and rain runoff rushes horizontally across properties initially before vertical seepage takes over. So baseboard, wall damage tends to skew bottom-up with telltale moisture wicked up to several feet in first-floor spaces. Upper story rooms may conversely show water staining dripping down from the roof after heavy rains, often traced back to wind-created openings.
No matter the suspect cause, minutely mapping moisture imprints room to room can recreate water dynamics at play. See if mappings match known exterior breach points or indicate remote interior failures. If uncertain, material forensics using moisture meters can confirm flood timing based on conditions. But visually diagnosing flood behavior via watermarks offers adjusters helpful causal deduction.
Collaborating for Consensus Especially when Mother Nature synergizes her full fury into simultaneous wind/water attacks, evaluating structural and material failures involves balancing science, intuition and experience for claims justice. Rarely will adjusters reach unanimous causation rulings without rigorous deliberation and weighting compelling indicators through collaborative discussion.
I always consult local general contractors, engineers and meteorologists to brainstorm event timelines plus building failure theories when unclear. Synthesizing specialty perspectives with my inspection findings constructs an impartial narrative upholding our principles for truthful, ethical conduct. Rushing causation assumptions fails everyone awaiting fair claim resolutions to pick up the pieces.
In the end, accurate wind versus water damage distinction sets the trajectory for South Florida families to financially recovery from disasters. So adjusters must embrace patience and objectivity throughout rigorous yet thoughtful evaluation processes. Our insight and integrity holds lives in the balance. That’s an awe-inspiring duty I never take lightly across years helping this storied region rebuild time and again.