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GEICO | BoatUS Marine Insurance Catastrophe Team responds after Hurricane Sally

by Scott Croft 1 Oct 06:23 PDT
The GEICO | BoatUS Marine Insurance Catastrophe Team recovers an insured's vessel at the Oyster Bar Marina in Pensacola, Florida. © Scott Croft

While Hurricane Sally's slow pace may have delivered four months of rain in four hours, the GEICO | BoatUS Marine Insurance Catastrophe Team is finding that the Category 2 hurricane's sudden shift to the east just prior to the storm's September 16 landfall caught many boaters unprepared.

"Boats that were homeported in Orange Beach, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, took the brunt of the damage," said GEICO | BoatUS Marine Insurance Catastrophe Field Team Supervisor Grant Beach. "Our challenge is locating vessels that may have traveled some distance, or locating what is left of the boats." The Catastrophe Team, made up of marine surveyors and salvage experts from across the country, along with local crane, barge and trucking firms, and local TowBoatUS towing companies, expects to remain active in the region for several more weeks.

Is there a takeaway for boaters? "Even with significantly better forecasting over the years, we learned that Mother Nature can still surprise," said Beach. "Nearly all of the vessels we are recovering don't show any signs of basic storm preparation, such as the use of double lines, chafe protection, or other damage avoidance measures."

While having a good insurance policy with full salvage and wreck removal coverage is a boat owner's last backstop, he or she needs to consider making storm preparation efforts, even if the boat is not directly in the forecast's "cone of uncertainty," which only looks at the predicted path of the center of the storm. According to NOAA, the entire track of the tropical cyclone can be expected to remain within the cone roughly 60% to 70% of the time.

"Clearly, Hurricane Sally was the outlier," added Beach.

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