Written By: Glenn Michaels, Op-Ed Writer
On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy, also known as Super Storm Sandy hit a major portion of the northeastern coastal areas. These areas had massive damage not so much from the wind that hurricanes are known to bring, but more from the surge of the ocean and bay waters.
My home and many others were situated in Flood Zone “X” that does not require flood insurance. I am living in my home since 1995 and this is the first time that there was water on my street and we have endured a number of previous hurricanes. In retrospect, part of my street was in Zone X and part was in Zone A that requires flood insurance. My home was and still is four homes out of Zone A because of the higher elevation of my side of the street.
When the storm ended more than 250,000 motor vehicles had to be replaced as they were totaled by the insurance companies. From my rear door I was able to watch an insurance staging area where vehicles were towed in and then moved elsewhere for their eventual destruction of the vehicle. For weeks I saw tow trucks from every state come to the staging area and then told where to go to pick up a vehicle and then where to bring the damaged vehicle. Everyday all kinds of vehicles were being towed in.
On Long Island there is a large barrier island that contains the City of Long Beach, The Incorporated Village of Point Look Out and Atlantic Beach and the unincorporated village of Lido Beach with a collective population of more than 375,000 people. This barrier island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Reynold’s Channel (a bay) and most of the homes were severely damaged or destroyed. On West Long Beach many homes are being elevated or being rebuilt with higher foundations. The Long Beach Hospital that served most of the residents of the barrier island had so much damage that it could not reopen as it was. All residents in need of a hospital had to travel to other areas of Long Island for hospital care. The bulk traveled to Oceanside, NY’s South Nassau Communities Hospital. Recently, South Nassau Communities Hospital announced that they were taking over the Long Beach Hospital and only establishing an emergency room. If they needed anything other than emergency they had to be moved to another facility.
Most of these homeowners on the barrier island had to have flood insurance because the homes were in Flood Zone A. Many homes were structurally damaged and uninhabitable due to the water damage.
FEMA to the rescue or was it an agency in chaos. Homeowners and businesses that had federal flood insurance filed their claims and this became problematical. Recently the mass media revealed that numerous claims that were denied were denied due to the fact that the engineer’s reports were altered or changed by someone and therefore FEMA would not pay out as they should. This week FEMA announced that they were going to reopen approximately 143,000 flood insurance claims as these policy holders were probably not paid correctly. The news program that I saw had a Structural Engineer on the program who said many of his reports that said homes were structurally damaged due to the storm were changed to say that they were not structurally damaged and now FEMA does not have to pay out as much.
FEMA after a year and a half after the storm began to request the return of grant money from homeowners that did not have federal flood insurance. I was asked to return $510.91 without any back up for the requested amount to be returned. The letter contained a telephone number at FEMA for further information. I immediately called and was told I owe the amount requested. I asked for a copy of my FEMA file to file an appeal. I was given information how to request a copy of my file. I followed the instructions to obtain a copy of my FEMA file and received another letter that my FEMA appeal was denied and that I still owed FEMA $510.91. I sent copies of my communication to my US Senator’s office for assistance in this matter. After a month wait, I finally received my FEMA file. The initial requested amount was supposedly duplicate insurance payment. The good hands people, my homeowner’s insurance carrier at the time paid me $2,189 for my trouble so I new there could not be much duplicate insurance payout. After reviewing the file I offered FEMA $89.95 plus the sales tax for what might be duplicate insurance. After a month I received another letter from FEMA that I know owe $159.11 and no back up to substantiate this number. After receiving this new request I sent my US Senator’s office a copy of my FEMA file and supporting documentation. After another month I received another letter from FEMA that I now owe nothing and the case is closed.
There are so many other horror stories, I could write numerous pages how so many government agencies failed to assist Sandy Victims. There were some good things that came out of Super Storm Sandy as well.
About The Author
Glenn Michaels - As an op-ed writer, Glenn Michaels is a mortgage underwriting instructor for CampusUnderwriter (www.MortgageUnderwriter.org). As a BBA & FHA DE Underwriter, Glenn is a Pace University graduate who also graduated from New York University’s School of Mortgage Finance. Glenn has conducted numerous training classes and has worked in the mortgage banking industry for 38 years.