On today’s show we’re bringing you an up to the minute update on the major hurricane that slammed into the Gulf Coast overnight.

We’re talking about a major category 4 storm called hurricane Laura.

About half a million people were evacuated from the low lying coastal area. Some people I spoke with drove as far as Austin Texas, 5 hours away in order to find a hotel room.

We have several projects in SW Louisiana. So what was happening in Lake Charles is of direct personal interest. We have staff, residents, suppliers, lawyers, accountants in the market that we speak with on a daily basis.

The short time available for preparing for the storm illustrated where we had weaknesses in our emergency preparedness. For example, in the future we will have a checklist for protecting key pieces of equipment, and records. When the staff closed down the office, we can only hope that they took the appropriate precautions. Some things will have been done well and others, perhaps not. We will certainly do a lessons learned and put some process into emergency preparation. But the important part is that we will carry that beyond our Lake Charles team into the other geographies. Some of those areas also have tropical storm threats.

We knew there would be major power outages across the region and we took additional precautions by disconnecting the power to our buildings and powering down the water treatment plants and sewage treatment plants. These systems will be restarted in an orderly manner when power is restored following the storm.

The national hurricane center published a map showing the impact of the storm surge, even 30 miles inland from the coast. That forecast predicted widespread flooding across several hundred miles of coastline, and up to 30 miles inland. If you stayed in the Lake Charles area, you’re getting wet.

Now that the storm has passed, we know that the major impact was from the wind and that the storm surge was much less than predicted. Overnight we had reports of downed trees, of many broken electrical utility poles and downed power lines. We saw many broken windows and lots of debris scattered through the streets. One of the things that makes these storms so damaging is that the wind changes direction. Once the eye of the storm passes over you, many structures have been weakened or compromised. Then the backside of the storm brings back the hurricane force winds from the opposite direction and that’s when the real damage happens. You have a weakened structure that can’t handle being hit a second time from the other side.

Whenever there is a major storm, people dig out their insurance policies and start reading policies, if they even have the full wording of the policies at all.

Most of the time when we buy insurance, the insurance broker sends a one page quote with a signature line at the bottom. We always ask for the full policy and we’re often met with surprised reaction. What that tells me is that most people don’t really know what their insurance coverage is.

Many policies have exclusions or limitations for named storms. Certainly Hurricane Laura would meet the definition of a named storm.

Most policies have limitations on their coverage for water damage. They make a distinction between wind damage and water damage. If your building was damaged by wind and then water got into the building because of the wind damage, that would be covered under wind damage. But if the water came up from below, either because of a storm surge or because of a sewer backup, then that would be covered under a flood insurance policy. The insurers make a distinction on where the water came from when it comes to insuring that risk.

As far as we know, all of our staff complied with the mandatory evacuation orders and will be fully ready to get to work on the cleanup in the coming days.