Civil/Structural Engineering, Vashon, Washington, USA 206-463-5311
Ellisport Engineering Blog
Hurricane Sandy Blog

Starting in late November, Eric and I have been doing insurance inspections for Hurricane Sandy damage on the East Coast.  Due to the overwhelming amount of damage, engineers from other states have been helping inspect homes and resolve insurance claims so people can begin rebuilding.  Our primary assignment areas have been southern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.  Generally, our focus is to determine the cause or causes of the damage, allocate an estimated percentage of the damage to each of the causes, and recommend conceptual repair solutions.

The predominant situation is determining how much of the building was damaged by wind, and how much was damaged by storm surge (flooding).  Insurance companies will cover damage related to wind.  Storm surge is covered by flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP through FEMA).  However, many homeowners did not carry flood insurance, and this is why our determination is so critical.

The general guidelines are: if there was local flooding, second story damage = wind, first story damage = flood.  However, there is much more that goes into making this assessment after our detailed inspection and documentation.  Usually, there is no clear-cut boundary to the damage.  Many times, we do calculations to compare wind force magnitudes to the flood forces (if a waterline is not present on the house siding, there are other good sources to determine approximate flood height in the locale).  And we look at damage on neighboring properties for further information. 

It’s difficult and taxing work to ensure that we properly investigate the damage and ethically present our findings, regardless of the homeowner’s insurance coverage.  As you might imagine, the reports are extremely detailed; they present our findings in a clear manner for determining loss, for providing general guidelines for repairs, and for documenting our work in case of a lawsuit.

We try to see two projects per day, often spending 4 hours at a site, then driving to the next loss location.  This means long days, and we’re quite tired when we get back to the hotel.  However, it’s also rewarding work, knowing that we’re helping people resolve their house issues and helping them move on with their lives.

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