Hurricane Michael continues Northeast along the coast.
Hurricane Michael continues Northeast along the coast. Credit: Courtesy / National Weather Service

San Antonio-based insurer USAA responded Wednesday to the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Michael with a major deployment of people and resources.

The effort comes just weeks after Hurricane Florence, the first major hurricane of the 2018 season, delivered damaging winds, rain, and flooding to parts of the Carolinas and Maryland. Following that storm in mid-September, USAA received more than 55,000 claims.

About 100 of the company’s claims adjusters arrived after Michael – the strongest storm on record to hit the Florida Panhandle – swept across the states of Florida and Alabama, and into Georgia. USAA set up its base of operations in Navarre, Florida, to help members file damage claims via its rapid response mobile unit, Eagle One.

“At this time, claims counts are minimal, but we expect that to change as people start getting access to their homes,” spokesman Rich Johnson said. “We have a plane flying the area now collecting imagery, and that will be processed and used to assist adjusters with roof claims.”

USAA set up a discussion thread on its website for members affected by the hurricane and provided phone numbers and other resources for disaster preparation and coping with evacuations.

USAA is the nation’s fifth-largest homeowners insurance provider, based on 2016 direct written premiums. The financial services company has a net worth of $30.6 billion and nearly 12 million members, many of whom are active duty and retired military service members and their families.

Widespread damage was reported at Tyndall Air Force Base after Hurricane Michael plowed through the area. Other nearby military installations – Hurlburt Field, Eglin Air Force Base, and the Naval Air Station Pensacola – also sustained some damage.

USAA paid out more than $2 billion in catastrophe claims in 2017, the largest catastrophe year in company history, and made 220 drone flights to survey damage to unreachable homes.

USAA’s corporate offices located in Tampa, Florida, where the company employs 3,600 people, remained open and operational during and after the storm.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is a journalist and writer in San Antonio, and a business reporter for The Rivard Report.