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Tropical Storm Bonnie Passes Through South Florida Without Incident

palm tree blowing.jpgTropical Storm Bonnie’s center made landfall in Cutler Bay, about 20 miles south of Miami, at about 11 a.m. today. The storm was characterized mostly by strong winds and heavy rain for most of the morning, and early afternoon.

The worst of the storm has now passed Miami, and the storm will soon enter the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to strengthen as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico.

All tropical storm warnings for South Florida, the Florida Keys, and the Bahamas, have been lifted. At Virginia Key, sustained winds were measured at 41 mph with gusts as high as 58 mph according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

While this storm proved to be a non-event for South Florida, it did allow us to ensure that we are prepared for hurricane season. This hurricane season promises to be an active one, and Miami was recently listed as to the top city in the country that is long overdue for a major hurricane strike. Miami has not been hit by a major hurricane since 1992 when Hurricane Andrew made landfall, and has not been hit by any hurricane since Hurricane Wilma made landfall in October of 2005. Therefore, it is important to be prepared during hurricane season.

Our Miami insurance dispute attorneys encourage residents to review whether or not they are prepared for the hurricane season. While South Florida has gotten a pass thus far this summer, serious storms, including the threat of tropical storms or hurricanes, will become soon become commonplace in the months ahead. And while Tropical Storm Bonnie was mostly a non-event causing little to no damage, the same may not be the case for the next storm.

Bonnie Earns Respect with her Name; Dangers of Severe Weather Present Regardless of Storm’s Rating

Tropical Storm Bonnie earned respect when she earned her name on Thursday night. Tropical depressions, or areas of intense thunderstorms that gather in the tropics, become named tropical storms when they reach sustained wind speeds of 39 mph.

Understanding how storms are characterized can assist homeowners in knowing what to expect. However, our Miami hurricane damage lawyers caution homeowners against becoming complacent in cases where a tropical storm fails to become a hurricane, or when a hurricane fails to climb the charts.
The act of rating a storm can actually be dangerous when it leads to such complacency. The storm-classification system is designed to assist South Florida residents in understanding what to expect — as long as they understand that, in all cases, a storm carries the risk of serious property damage and the potential for serious or fatal injury when residents fail to take the proper safety precautions.

Tropical storms, such as Bonnie, have wind speeds of 39 to 73 miles an hour and are associated with torrential rains, localized flooding, downed trees and power lines and the possibility of structural damage, particularly to older buildings or mobile homes.

A tropical storm reaches hurricane strength when winds climb above 74 miles an hour and are categorized on a scale of 1 to 5 until the winds reach roughly twice that speed. Anything with sustained winds of more than 155 mph is considered a Category 5 hurricane. Katrina was a Category 5 storm when it hit New Orleans and Andrew was a Category 5 storm when it devastated South Florida in 1992.

Florida Today provides a nice graphic illustration.

Category 1: Minimal Hurricane
Winds: 74 to 95 miles per hour
Storm surge: Up to 5 feet
Damage: Some trees and power lines may be down; damage caused by flying debris; localized flooding; those in mobile and modular homes are at greatest risk.

Category 2: Moderate Hurricane
Winds: 96 to 110 miles per hour.
Storm Surge: 6 to 8 feet.
Damage: Downed trees and power lines; some flooding; debris damages; structural damage possible, particularly in older homes. Mobile and modular homes at great risk.

Category 3: Extensive Hurricane
Winds: 111 to 130 mph
Storm Surge: 9 to 12 feet
Damage: Widespread flooding possible. Significant structural damage to homes and buildings possible. Downed trees and power lines. Probable destruction of mobile and modular homes.

Category 4: Extreme Hurricane
Winds: 131 to 155 mph
Storm Surge: 12 to 18 feet
Damage: Widespread destruction of homes and buildings, structural damages and roof loss are common, significant flooding and storm surge risk, higher likelihood of significant time without power.

Category 5: Catastrophic Hurricane

Winds: Greater than 155 miles per hour
Storm Surge: 18 feet
Damage: Widespread destruction

The important thing to keep in mind when considering a storm’s rating is that all of these storms can cause significant property damage and can lead to the risk of serious or fatal injuries. This weekend’s tropical storm, with winds of 40 miles per hour, is roughly twice as powerful as our typical violent summer weather. A minimal category 1 hurricane is four times as powerful as a typical summer storm.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in South Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

South Florida Braces for First Tropical Storm of the Season

A tropical storm is expected to bring heavy winds and rains to the Florida Keys and across parts of South Florida through the weekend but authorities thus far have not announced any mandatory evacuations, the Miami Herald reported.

Our Miami insurance dispute attorneys encourage residents to use news of this storm to review whether or not they are prepared for the hurricane season. While South Florida has gotten a pass thus far this summer, serious storms, including the threat of tropical storms or hurricanes, will become commonplace through the remainder of summer and well into the fall.
We recently published tips for hurricane preparation on our Florida Insurance Lawyer Blog, including the need to store food, water, prescription drugs, cooking fuel, batteries and First Aid items. This is also a good time to make sure all of your important documents — including your homeowner’s insurance policy — are gathered together in a waterproof container.

Chances are good this will just be one of those South Florida summer storms with which we are all familiar. But it is a good time to prepare for the more serious storms that can damage or destroy property and lead to life-threatening conditions. Mild storms can quickly turn dangerous once in the warm waters of the Gulf — Katrina passed over South Florida as a Category 1 hurricane before fueling itself in the Gulf’s warm waters and slamming into New Orleans as a Category 5 monster.

And even relatively mild storms can down trees and power lines and cause other property damage for which an insurance claim will need to be filed.

The depression formed Thursday over the Bahamas and hurricane forecasters say it could become a tropical storm. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Florida Keys but the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency said no mandatory evacuation is expected. As a precaution, storm shelters will be opened for tourists and for residents who live on boats or have other special needs.

The storm is moving toward the Florida Peninsula with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph. When it comes to summer storms in South Florida, it is always best to hope for the best … but plan for the worst.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Hurricane Season is Upon Us – Are You Prepared?

hurricane2_thumb.jpgAnother hurricane season is upon us here in South Florida. The pelting rain. The howling wind. The mad rush of weathermen on both local and national TV. The long lines in the gas stations and food stores.

It is difficult to forget the damage Hurricane Andrew caused to South Florida in 1992, and Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It is just as hard to forget the haunting images of what the residents of New Orleans, and coastal Mississippi went through after Hurricane Katrina made land fall in 2005. These hurricanes, and other smaller storms over the years, caused extensive damage to many properties in Florida, and the Gulf states.

The good news, however, is that with modern technology – and yes, those weatherman that appear constantly on TV – we should have at least 3 to 4 days advance notice of an arriving hurricane. It will be important to use that time wisely.

The most cumbersome part of a hurricane is often the aftermath. For instance, after Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida in 2005 there were many parts of South Florida that was left without electricity for days, and many gas stations that could not dispense fuel for weeks.

Therefore, it becomes important to have a plan in place to deal with hurricanes. And your hurricane preparedness plan should include preparations to address the coming hurricane before it arrives, as it is hitting, and after it makes land fall.

For instance, it will be important for you to take photographs of your property, including vegetation, your roof, personal belongings, etc., prior to the arrival of a hurricane. This will allow you to make the strongest case possible with your insurance company should your property be damaged as a result of the hurricane.

More importantly, you should have ample supplies to last you through the hurricane and beyond. The National Hurricane Center recommends including these items in your hurricane survival kit:

– Water – at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
– Food – at least enough for 3 to 7 days
– non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
– foods for infants or the elderly
– snack foods
– non-electric can opener
– cooking tools / fuel
– paper plates / plastic utensils
– Blankets / Pillows, etc.
– Clothing – seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
– First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
– Special Items – for babies and the elderly
– Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
– Flashlight / Batteries
– Radio – Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
– Telephones – Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
– Cash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards – Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods
– Keys
– Toys, Books and Games
– Important documents – in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag
insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.
– Tools – keep a set with you during the storm
– Vehicle fuel tanks filled
– Pet care items
– proper identification / immunization records / medications
– ample supply of food and water
– a carrier or cage
– muzzle and leash

To learn more, please contact our office today.

Citizens Property Insurance Requests Rate Increase as South Florida Braces for another Hurricane Season

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is taking the steps necessary to raise homeowner’s insurance rate by up to 11.3 percent in parts of South Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Wilma in 2005, was the last hurricane to strike South Florida. Still, five years later, property insurers are seeking double-digit rate increases. The availability of Citizen’s Property Insurance is particularly critical for coastal homeowners. The state-run insurer is the insurance company of last resort for homeowners in high-risk areas who otherwise may not be able to get insurance.
On that note, there is some good news. Citizens is proposing a decrease in the average rates in Miami Beach and along the coast in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Statewide, Citizens proposed an average increase of 9.4 percent for policies that cover homes, condominiums, renters, mobile homes and vacation or rental property. Condominium buildings would see an average increase of 12 percent in parts of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

Meanwhile, the company reports that rates in parts of Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Orange counties should be as much as 120 percent higher — or more than twice the current rate. However, a 2009 state law limits annual increases to 10 percent.

Our Miami insurance claims attorneys question the need to increase rates more than 10 percent, never mind the assertion that rates should be twice as high as current rates. Citizens has had few claims in the absence of hurricanes and, in most cases, the properties it insures are worth just a fraction of their value several years ago, thanks to South Florida’s plummeting real estate values.

Since the company is backed by the state, we have little question that the state will approve the rate increase. And we will stand ready to ensure that Citizens’ customers, and the customers of other Florida insurers, are treated fairly and paid in a timely manner in the event the area is hit by another storm this year.

After years of skyrocketing home insurance rates in South Florida, it’s an obligation we intend to see that these companies fulfill on behalf of our clients.
If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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