Idalia recovery: Steadily climbing insured losses combine with environmental mess

by | Sep 12, 2023

  • Insured losses skyrocket to $156.4 million as claims surge to 17,472 – steadily climbing toward industry estimates in the billions.
  • Unreported until now: 26,000 gallons of wastewater spills and a kerosene leak in St. Petersburg add to Hurricane Idalia’s toll.
  • Initial findings show lesser environmental impact compared to last year’s Hurricane Ian, but little consolation to those in the impact area.

As Florida continues to grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, estimated insured losses have surged to $156.4 million, according to data released on Sunday by the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation. The figure reflects a steady increase from Thursday’s estimated losses of $135.7 million and is based on a total of 17,472 claims.

It’s worth noting that different groups use the same terminology regarding estimated insured losses, for examplel, insurance industry analysts say that estimated insured losses from Idalia could reach as much as $9.36 billion. In the case of the state number reported above, however, that number is only an estimate of the insured losses in claims filed so far.  As people return to their homes, file claims and insurance adjusters eventually are able to assess the claim, the state’s claimed estimates will climb toward the industry’s own estimates and arrive at a final number.

Among the claims filed so far, 12,040 are specifically for residential property damage, with others filed for auto damage and various other issues. As of Sunday, 1,957 claims have been closed with payments, while 1,751 were closed without payments. The Category 3 hurricane made landfall on August 30 in the Keaton Beach area of Taylor County and caused widespread damage through parts of North Florida into Georgia.

The hurricane didn’t just leave a financial dent; it also led to considerable environmental damage across the state.

At least 26,000 gallons of wastewater spills, primarily raw sewage, have been reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection due to severe flooding triggered by the storm. In water bodies like Tampa Bay, the Manatee River, and Boca Ciega Bay, toppled boats resulted in gasoline leaks. A kerosene leak also occurred in a St. Petersburg mobile home park due to the floodwaters. Punta Gorda faced the largest wastewater spill where a failed wastewater treatment plant released an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of wastewater into the Peace River. Additional incidents included a sewer line rupture in Punta Gorda, sewage overflows in Crystal River, a spill in Leon County near Piney Z Lake, and a wastewater station in Clearwater being inundated with floodwater.

Fuel-related spills were also rampant, with sinking boats causing diesel and oil spills in various waterways, including Boca Ciega Bay and Tampa Bay. Reports of diesel oil covering the ground near a canal in Tarpon Springs were also received, possibly linked to a sunken barge. Smaller-scale spills, like vehicles spewing gasoline into neighborhood canals in Horseshoe Beach, presented additional challenges for identification and reporting.

Though it might take months to fully assess the environmental impact of Hurricane Idalia, initial assessments suggest that the environmental damage may not be as severe as that caused by Hurricane Ian in the previous year, which resulted in significant wastewater dumps into Florida waterways. Nonetheless, the rising number of claims and widespread environmental damage indicate that recovery from Hurricane Idalia will be a long and complex process.

1 Comment

  1. Tarno_inz

    I wonder if there will be analysis of algae blooms in those affected areas. Or perhaps the scientists have it all figured out with no further need for further analysis.

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