Hurricane Idalia taught an important lesson in late August as it hit Florida’s Big Bend region and made a trek across North Florida. Catastrophic events can develop rapidly, and policyholders need to act quickly to protect themselves, their families and their homes.
Unlike many hurricanes that form in the eastern Atlantic, Idalia began its journey in the warm waters between Cuba and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It made its Florida landfall on August 30 as a Category 3 hurricane, intensifying from a tropical depression only three days before.
Following well-established plans tailored days before Idalia’s landfall, Citizens sent catastrophe response teams into the field after state officials determined it was safe. The teams joined other insurers participating at Insurance Initial Payment Centers set up by the Florida Department of Financial Services in Perry and Fanning Springs.
These "insurance villages" offered impacted policyholders a one-stop location to file claims, obtain claim status, receive additional living expense funds and meet with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state agencies and other support groups.
Citizens’ Employees Supporting Those in Need
Additionally, Citizens’ representatives were available at sites set up by the Florida Department of Commerce in Horseshoe Beach and Madison to aid Floridians impacted by the storm. For Citizens’ employees, the emergency deployments provide an opportunity to extend support to our policyholders when they are most in need.
"I enjoy being face-to-face with our policyholders recovering from the unexpected," said Latrelle Sandford, a Citizens volunteer in Perry. "It’s gratifying to serve and help them with their needs. I appreciate the opportunity to make an impact."
Every spring, Citizens assembles and trains a group of volunteers to go into areas impacted by storms and provide face-to-face support. Over the years, the teams have deployed to South Florida, the Florida Keys, Southwest Florida and the Florida Panhandle to meet customers beginning their recovery.
While overall storm damage wasn’t as bad as predicted in Idalia’s track across the state’s largely rural Big Bend region, Citizens’ responders are keenly aware that every storm is catastrophic to those who endure it.
"It’s great to be a part of something bigger, something that brings hope in the darkest of times," Citizens volunteer Alina Triana said. “It’s an opportunity to witness the human spirit and resilience up close."
Lessons Learned: Surge a Major Issue
Policyholders in the Tampa Bay region were spared Idalia’s high winds that caused damage farther north but were not spared from catastrophic loss. Many policyholders experienced flood damage from storm surge produced as Idalia worked its way up Florida’s Gulf Coast. Pinellas and Pasco counties were particularly hard hit as Idalia churned up the Gulf and sent it ashore.
Citizens does not provide flood coverage to protect against storm surge. That coverage is typically provided either by the National Flood Insurance Program or a private carrier and will become mandatory for most Citizens policyholders by January 1, 2027. And Idalia emphasized that flood coverage can be a financial lifesaver even if you don’t live in a designated flood zone.
The hurricane season is not over. Before it makes its official exit December 1, review your policy. If you have questions, contact your agent to ensure you have all the resources to recover from a storm.