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State insurance official visits flood areas

The state’s head insurance official took a helicopter tour of flooded areas in Decatur County Wednesday morning to assess the damage and offer his help.

After a 20-minute flight over the county, Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine said he believes the damage to homes along the Flint River could total at least $2 million.

Oxendine also expressed concerned that many of the mobile homes damaged by water rushing through the Big Slough might not have federal flood insurance. Even residents of homes with flood insurance might have greater losses than the maximum amount covered by the U.S. government, which could mean a huge financial burden for them, Oxendine said.

Regarding the Big Slough, Oxendine said it appeared the natural depression may have slowed down flood water from going into Bainbridge city limits, but unfortunately, the community on Slough Loop Road experienced massive flooding as a result.

“Most of those homes will probably be a total loss, as they’ve been damaged by water for several days,” Oxendine said. “Some mobile homes may have flood coverage as part of their home insurance but many do not.”

Oxendine, who was also scheduled to visit Valdosta and Waycross on Wednesday, said he was visiting flooded areas and speaking with local emergency management officials to get an idea how he and his staff could help. Although the federal flood insurance is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the insurance policies are sold through local insurance agents, whom are licensed through the state government. In the event people with flood-damaged homes have a dispute with their insurance agency or FEMA, Oxendine said his office could help on their behalf.

“FEMA works with licensed insurance adjusters,” Oxendine said. “We can’t change federal rules, so in a black-and-white situation, FEMA rules prevail. But if it’s a gray area, we can help out.”

Oxendine said “gray areas” could entail dollar amounts related to repairing flood-damaged homes, including material costs and definitions of how badly a home is damaged.

According to Oxendine, residences covered by flood insurance can receive up to $250,000 for the structure and up to $100,000 for its contents. Businesses can get up to $500,000 for the structure and up to $500,000 for its contents.

Georgia’s insurance commissioner asked anyone who has problems with their flood insurance or needs help rebuilding can call his office at 800-656-2298. Oxendine said his office is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Its Web site is www.gainsurance.org