|Mass evacuations have been ordered throughout the state of Florida as Hurricane Irma barrels toward Miami as a Category 4 storm.|
The Florida REALTORS® association is warning its members to brace for full impact from Hurricane Irma as the storm tears through the Caribbean and heads straight for the state. Irma is expected to make a direct hit on Miami by Sunday. The storm, which has wreaked devastation on Caribbean islands as a Category 5 hurricane, was downgraded to a still-dangerous Category 4 on Friday, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called for mass evacuations. Irma follows on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas last week and left more than 40,000 homes in the Houston area destroyed.
“This isn’t just an issue for waterfront homes,” Florida REALTORS® President Maria Wells says. “Flooding can occur [anywhere] due to storm surge and heavy rain. We must protect Florida’s citizens.” Thousands of homes along the Florida coastline in Irma’s path are at risk of storm surge.
Florida REALTORS® closed its offices Friday to prepare for Irma and has provided its members with a detailed Hurricane Preparation and Recovery Plan for before and after the storm. The plan contains lessons learned from 2004—when four hurricanes struck Florida—including directions to contact insurance companies and inquire about exclusions to flood insurance policies before the storm hits, as well as make copies of insurance papers and policy numbers. The guidelines also instruct brokers to make video and photographic records of their office buildings and supplies and to update all contact information for staff.
The National Association of REALTORS® is calling on members nationwide to donate to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation to help victims of Irma and other storms. After Hurricane Harvey, the RRF received more than $550,000 in donations, and staff estimated there were nearly $600,000 in additional commitments from REALTOR® associations.
Wells says the National Flood Insurance Program, which covers 1.8 million homes in Florida, will be critical for state residents who will be affected by Irma. The NFIP, which was approved for a three-month extension by Congress this week, helps to pay for and provide policies for millions of homeowners in flood zones. “The National Flood Insurance Program is all that stands between families and disaster,” Wells says. “This is of critical concern for Floridians, since we represent nearly 40 percent of all NFIP policies in the U.S. Without flood insurance, our communities are unprotected and at risk, with devastating consequences to people and their lives, homes, and businesses.”
—Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine