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AAA Survey: Floridians Concerned for Upcoming Hurricane Season

Floridians are becoming more concerned about hurricane season, after enduring four major storms in the past three years, including a category five last year, according to a survey from AAA.

The AAA survey, conducted online of 400 residents living in Florida from April 3 to 6, 2019found that 92 percent of respondents are worried about the 2019 Hurricane Season. Nearly one in five (19%) are more concerned than last year. Still, AAA said their growing fears have not motivated them to get ready for a major hurricane as nearly a quarter of Florida residents reported not making advanced preparations for hurricane season or severe weather.

That statistic is despite recent hurricanes FlorenceMichaelHarveyIrma and Maria causing more than $200 billion in damage, according to Floodsmart.gov.

“If the last few hurricane seasons have taught us anything it’s the importance of being prepared,” said Peter Corrigan, president, Auto Club Insurance Company of Florida. “Although you can’t control the weather, you can take certain precautions to ensure your family and belongings are protected. Storm preparations should include having a storm kit, evacuation plan, and proper insurance coverage, which includes flood insurance.”

21% of Respondents Would Ignore Evacuation Warnings

Based on AAA findings, if a named storm were to cause an evacuation, the majority of Floridians (79%) would heed official warning and leave their homes. However, of those who would evacuate, more than half (62%) say they would only leave for a category three hurricane or greater.

Lowest Category Hurricane Floridians Would Evacuate For
Category 1 74-95 mph winds 7%
Category 2 96-110 mph winds 21%
Category 3 111-129 mph winds 30%
Category 4 130-156 mph winds 20%
Category 5 >=157 mph winds 12%

AAA said that of the two biggest sources of hurricane damage – wind and torrential rain resulting in flooding – nearly three-quarters (73%) of Floridians do not have flood insurance, which is separate from homeowners insurance. The survey found 57% of residents are “Somewhat” or “Very” concerned about experiencing a flood at their home, while 43% said they were “Not at all” concerned.

Flooding is the number one disaster in the United States.

  • Homes in low risk zones account for nearly 20 percent of flood claims every year.
  • Just one inch of flooding can cause $25k in damage to your home.
  • 19% of Floridians have experienced flooding at their home.
  • 21% of Floridians are unaware that homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • Flood insurance policies can cost less than a dollar per day.

“Nearly half of residents in Florida do not realize there is a 30-day waiting period for new flood policies to take effect,” Corrigan said. “So, if you wait until a named storm is moving in your direction, you will be too late. Now is the time to check with your insurance agent to ensure you are covered before the busy storm season begins.”

AAA offered several tips for people to best prepare for the busy hurricane season, which runs from June 1 – November 30, including:

  • Know Your Evacuation Route – Visit FloridaDisaster.org to track the recommended evacuation route for your region.
  • Secure Your Home – Inspect your home for minor repairs needed to roof, windows, down spouts, etc. Trim trees or bushes that could cause damage to your home in case of high winds.
  • Make a Plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan to include ways to contact each other, alternative meeting locations, and an out-of-town contact person. Identify a safe room or safest areas in your home. Research your evacuation route. Be sure and include plans for your pets.
  • Take Inventory – Update your home inventory by walking through your home with a video camera or smart phone. Keep a record of large purchases including the cost of the item, when purchased and model and serial numbers as available.
  • Stock Emergency Supplies – Plan for a week’s worth of non-perishable food and water. Be sure to have flashlights, extra batteries, battery-powered radio, medications, first aid kit, blankets, toiletries, diapers, etc. You may also want to prepare a portable kit and keep in your car should you evacuate.
  • Protect Your Property – Review your homeowners insurance policy with your insurance agent to determine whether you have adequate protection. Discuss your deductibles. Be aware that flood insurance is not typically covered under your homeowner’s policy. Flooding coverage for your automobile is available under the physical damage coverage.

Survey results have a maximum margin of error of ± 5.5 percentage points. Responses are weighted by age to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the adult population (18+) in Florida.

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 59 million members in the United States and Canada.

Source: AAA

Source for article: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2019/05/29/527636.htm

Millennials More Likely to Buy Flood Insurance Than Baby Boomers

Millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996— are nearly three times more likely to have purchased flood insurance than their older Baby Boomer counterparts born between 1944 and 1964, a new survey finds.

Overall, less than half of Americans who agree that having flood insurance is important have purchased flood insurance, according to a national survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

The survey of 1,000 American adults conducted in May reveals that Millennials are not only nearly three times more likely to have purchased flood insurance than their Baby Boomers but they are also more likely than Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1980 to purchase flood insurance (25% vs. 16%).

Overall, Millennials are more likely to agree/strongly agree that purchasing a flood policy is a good idea (57% vs. 41% for Gen X vs. 24% for Baby Boomers).

Recent floods in the Midwest and South where recovery efforts will continue for years bring home the disconnect between intention and action on flood coverage. According to the survey, 41% of respondents agree or strongly agree that flood insurance is a “good idea” but only 17% say they have purchased flood insurance, and even that response may be based on a misunderstanding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that only about 3% of homeowners have flood insurance.

“This disparity perhaps reflects the common, though incorrect, assumption that homeowners insurance covers flooding,” said Eric Cioppa, NAIC president and Superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance.

Flood insurance policies are available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and on the private market.

As of March 2018, NFIP premiums written reached $3.55 billion.

According to an Insurance Journal report on “Top Private Flood Insurers, 2017 Market Study,” during 2017, the private flood market expanded considerably with 50 new companies reporting to the NAIC as writing private flood coverage. In total, insurers reported direct private flood insurance premiums written of $630 million, an increase of $217 million over 2016.

Combined, surplus lines premium and direct private flood insurance premiums written increased $250 million to $1.028 billion, gaining 22 percent of the overall market.

Other findings of the Insurance Journal report:

  • The 2017 top five writers of direct written premium for private flood insurance in the commercial market were: FM Global ($263,281,599); Zurich Re ($63,839,162); Berkshire Hathaway ($27,603,275); RSUI ($13,224,505); and Allianz ($11,704,696).
  • The 2017 top five writers of direct written premium for private flood insurance in the residential market were: Assurant ($89,826,939); AIG ($58,245,862); Swiss Re ($41,571,428); Chubb ($9,977,894); and Liberty Mutual Fire ($8,849,770).
  • In 2017, 10 states experienced private flood insurance growth in excess of $5 million in new business written. These states represent 63 percent of all business written in 2017 – Florida; California; Texas; New York; New Jersey; Ohio; Louisiana; Massachusetts; Pennsylvania; and Georgia.
  • As of March 2018, NFIP premiums written reached $3.55 billion, an increase of $11 million over March of 2017. Combined, surplus lines premium and direct private flood insurance premiums written increased $250 million to $1.028 billion, gaining 22 percent of the overall market.

The NAIC survey was conducted online among 1,004 adults comprising 502 men and 502 women 18 years of age and older. This survey was live May 20-22, 2019.

Sources:

Source of article: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2019/06/04/528323.htm

 

87M Adults Were Uninsured or Underinsured in 2018

Survey Says As health care costs rise, more Americans are being pushed into inadequate health insurance plans that cause them to put off care.

By Gaby Galvin, Staff Writer

MORE AMERICANS ARE insured than in the past, but millions are enrolled in skimpy health plans that often keep them from seeking care, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund.

Researchers estimate that in 2018, 45 percent of working-age adults, or 87 million people, were either underinsured or had no coverage for at least part of the last year – a share that is essentially unchanged from 2010, despite monumental shifts in health policy during that time.

The Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010 and saw key provisions put in effect in 2014, expanded Medicaid eligibility and subsidized coverage for millions of Americans who were low-income or didn’t have access to health insurance through their employers, but largely left employer-based coverage alone. Nearly 20 million people gained access to health coverage as a result.

Number of Uninsured Rises

Yet the country also is now grappling with a larger pool of people who are underinsured – meaning they have health coverage, but also have high out-of-pocket health care costs relative to their incomes and are more likely to put off care or struggle to pay medical expenses, according to the report.

“U.S. working-age adults are significantly more likely to have health insurance since the ACA became law in 2010,” Sara Collins, lead author of the study and The Commonwealth Fund’s vice president for health care coverage and access, said in a statement. “But the improvement in uninsured rates has stalled (and) more people have health plans that fail to adequately protect them from health care costs.”

More than half of adults under age 65 are insured through their jobs, while about a quarter are enrolled in Medicaid or have insurance through the individual market, the report said. Among those with health coverage, 29 percent said they were underinsured in 2018, up from 23 percent in 2014, the survey found.

In 2018, 41 percent of underinsured adults said they had delayed care and 47 percent said they had trouble paying their medical bills. Among those with adequate health coverage, meanwhile, 23 percent said they had put off care, while 25 percent said they had problems with medical expenses.

“Inadequate insurance coverage leaves people exposed to high health care costs, and these expenses can quickly turn into medical debt,” the report said.

The increase in Americans with leaner health coverage has largely been driven by employer-based plans, not the ACA’s individual marketplaces, The Commonwealth Fund found. As health care costs have risen, employers have asked workers to shoulder some of the burden by offering plans with higher deductibles or requiring them to pay a larger share of premiums.

The findings indicate efforts to get people onto job-based plans aren’t enough to get them access to care, and that policymakers should address the “relatively quick erosion of employer coverage and its impact on workers,” Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, said in a statement.

Coverage gaps due to reasons like job loss also affect people’s ability to access care, even if these lapses are temporary. While coverage gaps tend to be shorter now than before the ACA, adults with continuous health insurance were more likely to get their recommended primary care and cancer screenings than those with gaps in coverage, the survey found, even if they were underinsured.

That’s due in part because the ACA requires insurers and employers to cover these services without cost-sharing, the report notes.

Efforts by the Trump administration to weaken the ACA also play a role. Last year, for example, the administration issued new insurance rules that expanded access to inexpensive, short-term health plans, which are exempt from ACA protections for pre-existing conditions. But nearly a dozen states have set their own short-term plan limits since then, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Health care costs are primarily what’s driving growth in premiums across all health insurance markets,” the report said, and policy efforts to improve health coverage should be paired with attempts to cut medical spending. The Commonwealth Fund cited the shift toward payment models that reward health care providers by health outcomes, not by the volume of services they deliver, as a promising effort.

Policymakers also can address the rising cost of prescription drugs, which President Donald Trump cited as a priority during his State of the Union address this week, and should closely monitor proposed mergers between providers and payers, the report said.

“Moving forward, it will be essential to protect, and grow, the ACA’s coverage gains while also working to ensure people with health insurance can get and afford the care they need,” Collins said.

Resource: https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2019-02-07/lack-of-health-insurance-coverage-leads-people-to-avoid-seeking-care

Let’s Talk About Better E-Policy Delivery

By Michael Babikian

Electronic policy delivery saves carriers and agents paper, time and money. It’s also more convenient for the customer because the policy arrives much faster. E-delivery can reduce the cycle time from weeks down to minutes.

Within the last decade, the industry has striven to make e-delivery the standard. Protective Life began offering it in 2008. In 2010, the Federation of Regulatory Counsel was discussing what Florida law had to say about electronic policy delivery. By 2013, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America had issued a report on best practices for e-delivery.

Many states made room for technology in their legislation as consumers demanded more convenience. Even California passed the Life and Annuity Electronic Transactions Law at the end of 2015, which permitted e-delivery and e-signatures in life insurance (with significant requirements).

The e-delivery practice was considered a game-changer, both from an environmental perspective (the insurance industry was purported to be the industry with the second-highest rate of paper consumption) and in terms of customer experience. Even then, consumers insisted on online access to their information, and most preferred to receive documents electronically.

But now, in 2019, consumers expect to receive their policies electronically. It’s no longer considered innovative or cutting-edge because the industry is catching up. Now, to be innovative, you have to take it a step further. To truly be customer-centric, you’ll need to think about how you can continue to meet increasing consumer demand for efficiency and ease of use.

I have two ideas to share in this realm. I hope you’ll consider them as this sort of out-of-the-box thinking is rewarded with a thriving business.

Expand E-Delivery To Inforce Business

Most carriers offer e-delivery only when they issue a policy. What about expanding that to all stages of a policy’s life, newly issued and inforce? What about e-delivery whenever a customer asks for it? Or what if they had access to a portal from which they could access their information on demand? We must not limit ourselves to what has been done to date; we must instead think about what’s possible.

Don’t Just Send − Store

You send the policy to your client, but then what? Like other financial documents – or even photos – it becomes a burden for customers to figure out where and how to store virtual information and assets. By partnering with a company that offers long-term secure storage for all things legacy, you could change the game yet again. A platform that allows customers to dictate when and with whom they share their information would take a weight off their shoulders.

Offering your customers expanded e-delivery and policy storage would dramatically improve their experience and ability to safeguard their information. An all-encompassing process and solution is the next step in innovation.

Michael Babikian is founder and CEO of LegacyShield. Michael may be contacted at michael.babikian@innfeedback.com.

© Entire contents copyright 2019 by InsuranceNewsNet.com Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reprinted without the expressed written consent from InsuranceNewsNet.com.

Resource: https://insurancenewsnet.com/innarticle/lets-talk-about-e-policy-delivery#.XM47v-hKjIU

American College President Looks To Build On Its Current Niche 74

InsuranceNewsNet
The American College’s new president wants to see the school expand by breaking out of its insurance niche and focusing on financial services.

The school is moving to a new headquarters with a president who has big plans for its future. He foresees the school doubling its current enrollment of 18,000 through building on its current offerings and growing broader relationships with others in the financial services and educational worlds.

George Nichols began his tenure as The American College’s president and CEO on Nov. 1 after a 17-year career with New York Life. Nichols took the helm at the 92-year-old institution while it is in the midst of a move from its campus in Bryn Mawr, Pa., to office space in the nearby Philadelphia suburb of King of Prussia. The move is expected to be completed in mid-May.

This change comes as The American College continues to deliver most of its programs online, no longer needing the 35-acre campus – a former country estate – that has been its home since 1961.

The campus was sold to the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in 2007, but the college continued to have its base of operations onsite at MDRT Foundation Hall, named in honor of the Million Dollar Round Table’s financial support of the facility.

As it leaves old-school, Main Line Philadelphia, the institution is taking on some new-school ways.

“We’re never going to be a regular college or university,” Nichols told InsuranceNewsNet. “We’re going to be a very nontraditional, niched college that’s focused on offering accredited programs in the financial services space for financial advisors. But if we can deliver it the same way as some of the most innovative and creative colleges and universities out there today, then we can have a big impact.”

Nichols said he sees many opportunities for the college to grow through serving more professionals in the financial services space, and making sure the school’s designation programs are relevant and up to date.

“Our name is The American College of Financial Services. However, if you look at our business model, we probably are more The American College of Insurance,” he said. “A large portion of our business – more than 85% – is with the insurance industry.”

The college will continue to offer such well-known insurance industry designations as Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant that have been the bedrock of its curriculum. But Nichols said he wants to make sure the college’s newest designations are relevant to the 21stcentury financial services professional.

First Priority

He said his first priority as president is to “build on that core business of insurance and expand it more in the financial services space.”

“Let’s look at our designations and determine which one of those would be as attractive to the broader financial services industry – beyond insurance – and let’s rethink about how to position them in that space to where we can try to penetrate that broader market as we have in the insurance space.”

For example, he said, the college’s Retirement Income Certified Professional designation “makes sense in the broader financial services space because there are clients in that space who have retirement needs.”

Wealth management is another area that is growing in importance in the financial services field, Nichols said, making the college’s newest designation – Wealth Management Certified Professional – relevant.

“Then we thought about the clientele that financial professionals have who are probably thinking about their legacy, so our Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation makes sense,” he said.

“We also recognized that there’s a large number of people in the financial services space who have clients or loved ones with special needs, so we have our Chartered Special Needs Consultant designation.”

Nichols said he spent his first few months on the job evaluating those four designations, making sure they are up-to-date and relevant to what’s happening in the marketplace. The next steps, he said, are to develop marketing strategies that are aimed after the broader financial services industry, and deepen the understanding of what the college does.

“There is no one that I’ve found or seen, that has a comprehensive offering of professional designations in the financial services industry that could take a person along their lifelong learning journey than The American College,” he said. “But how do we do a better job of telling that story and helping people understand how we are the best partner, not for a specific designation, but for the whole comprehensive approach of the lifelong journey of learning that people can have?”

Provost Hired

Under Nichols’ leadership, the college has hired its first provost to oversee the entire academic experience. A big part of his role will be to position the college in the e-learning space as the institution continues to serve the nontraditional student.

The college also has added a fundraising professional with experience working with foundations, Nichols said.

“We have done exceptionally well over the years in terms of our fundraising, but a lot of that is being driven in the life insurance space,” he said. “Now we have opportunities to go to foundations. There are opportunities for us to go to a broader network of potential donors.”

Another one of Nichols’ goals for the college is to be more effective at helping prepare financial advisors to take care of their clients.  In addition, he said, he would like to see the college connect more with consumers. And he suggested the college could connect with more traditional higher-education institutions to enable their business students to obtain professional designations through the college.

“When I think about the future of The American College, I really do believe that our future is bigger and better than what it’s ever been,” he said. “I could see our growth doubling in size if we’re able to implement and do the things we say we want to do.”

Nichols’s 17 years at New York Life included serving as special assistant to the chairman supporting strategic initiatives related to international marketing and regulatory policy; senior vice president in the Agency Group, and head of New York Life Direct, the company’s Tampa-based direct sales unit. He joined the Office of Governmental Affairs in 2006, assumed its leadership in 2007, and was subsequently named to the company’s Executive Management Committee.  In 2017,Nichols also developed an executive leadership institute for the top leaders of the company.

Before joining New York Life, Nichols was the commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Insurance, where he regulated the state’s $10 billion insurance industry. Before that, he was the executive director of the Kentucky Health Policy Board, vice president of marketing for Athena of North America, executive director of product development of Southeastern Group, Inc. (dba Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kentucky), executive officer of Central State Hospital in Louisville, and executive assistant to the commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Mental Health/Mental Retardation Services.

He was Kentucky’s first African-American insurance commissioner (1995) and the first African-American president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (1999).

Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents’ association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her atSusan.Rupe@innfeedback.com. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.

© Entire contents copyright 2019 by InsuranceNewsNet.com Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reprinted without the expressed written consent from InsuranceNewsNet.com.

Resource: https://insurancenewsnet.com/innarticle/american-college-president-looks-to-build-on-its-current-niche#.XM47EehKjIU

Nationwide Joins Construction Leaders In Bid To Cut Costly Causes Claims

Business owners in construction-related companies know that falls in the workplace have a ripple effect of difficult impacts.

Since many businesses operate with a family culture, an injury to or the death of an employee is a deeply emotional process for the entire operation.  In addition, an owner will face losses in claims, reputation, liabilities, lost time, training, morale and more.

Nationwide reports that falls from elevated surfaces are one of the most common — and costly — causes of claims. Out of the 8,000 construction-related workers’ compensation claims the company has processed over the last six years, 35 percent have been a result of falls.

Nationwide responded to the growing practice groups’ need for support and restructured its model with dedicated teams, territory managers and leaders specifically for the construction industry. The company’s Loss Control Servicesexperts coach construction leaders to create safe workplaces by working with owners and safety managers at construction business to:

  • Develop written policies and plans to reduce the use of ladders and make other safe options readily available
  • Regularly inspect equipment and repair/replace as needed
  • Train workers to properly use and inspect mobile scaffolding and lifts
  • Encourage workers to use rope, pulleys, block and tackle or other appropriate material-handling aids to lift materials onto elevated surfaces
  • Remind workers to use ladder alternatives, such as podium stepladders and baker racks instead of traditional A-frame and straight ladders

“It’s our goal to have families back together at the end of each day,” said Linda Stueber, Nationwide’s vice president of middle market commercial. “It’s a part of our values to focus on helping partners with prevention of serious worker injuries over simply responding once incidents occur.”

Construction customers benefit from the safety awareness programs, resources and training offered by Nationwide.  Nationwide also supports the national Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) campaign called “Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction,” running from May 6-10.

“We want to come alongside leaders in the construction industry with access to safety tips and new procedures to ensure a safe, productive environment in every workplace,” Stueber added.

For more information, visit the Loss Control Services site.

About Nationwide
Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2019 Nationwide

Resource: https://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/nationwide-joins-construction-leaders-to-prevent-most-common-and-costly-causes-of-claims#.XM457OhKjIU

CERTIFICATES OF INSURANCE VS. DECLARATIONS PAGES

Note from Patrons Insurance: Check out this great article! Please note, a Dec page is not always a one-page summary, but can be one to three pages.

At ENPICA , we have noticed that there is some confusion among our clients regarding whether to request a Certificate of Insurance (COI) or a Declarations page (Dec page) when asked to provide proof of insurance to a third party. We understand…it CAN be confusing!  Below, we have provided a definition for each of these documents and an explanation of the significant difference between the two.

CERTIFICATES OF INSURANCE

A Certificate of Insurance provides all of the information needed for proof of insurance for a policy holder as well as any third-party named additional interests or insured. This document is usually one page and contains the issuing insurance company name and contact information, the insured’s name, policy number and effective and expiration dates. Additionally, the certificate outlines the types of coverage contained in the policy and their limits of liability. A Certificate of Insurance also includes the name of the organization (additional insured/Certificate Holder) requesting the certificate and any conditions, exclusions or special language needed. This document is the most frequently requested form for entities requesting proof of insurance.

DECLARATIONS PAGE

A Declarations page serves as a one-page general summary of your insurance policy. It describes what coverage is contained within the policy, including the liability limits for each type of coverage provided. A Declarations page also includes the name and contact information of the insurance company providing the insurance, the insured’s name, the policy number, and the effective and expiration dates. This document does not include any conditions or exclusions that may apply to your policy or any specific language requested by the additionally insured.

Which document should you request from your insurance company? Both appear to provide the same, or similar, information, but there is one significant difference. A Certificate of Insurance provides an area to indicate the name and address of the organization requesting the proof of insurance, otherwise known as the Certificate Holder. The Certificate of Insurance also may contain the Certificate Holder’s special conditions, exclusions, or specific language needed. Neither of these can be added to a Declarations page.

So…next time you are asked by someone to provide them with proof of insurance, contact your insurance agency and request a Certificate of Insurance. A Declarations page can always be added, but in most cases the COI is all you need!

Resource: http://enpica.com/certificates-of-insurance-declarations-pages/

Tornadoes Cause Damage in Alabama, Florida Panhandle

Homes, businesses, government offices and churches were among the buildings badly damaged or demolished when tornadoes struck central Alabama over the weekend.

The severe weather hit Saturday and another tornado was reported later that evening at an air base in the Florida Panhandle.

On Sunday, the National Weather Service says its initial surveys indicated there was an EF 1 tornado in Autauga County, and a stronger EF2 twister in Wetumpka, Alabama.

“We suffered a tremendous amount of damage,” Mayor Jerry Willis said at a morning news conference with city and Elmore County officials. “Something that we’ve never had here before.”

The familiar steeple of the First Baptist Church of Wetumpka was missing after the storm. And much of a historic Presbyterian church was reduced to rubble.

Officials said at a news conference Sunday morning that at least 25 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed. Also severely damaged were the Wetumpka police station, senior citizens center and recreation center, according to WSFA-TV .

“Thus far we’ve seen damage indicating wind speeds of 120 to 130 mph,” John DeBlock, of the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said during the news conference.

No deaths or life-threatening injuries were reported.

Willis advised Wetumpka residents to avoid the downtown area as debris was being removed Sunday. There were no immediate estimates of the dollar value of the damage. Willis said that was being documented in anticipation of seeking federal aid. The Central Alabama Community Foundation is raising money to help Wetumpka storm victims.

In the Florida Panhandle, authorities said buildings on an air base were damaged by a tornado early Saturday evening. Tyndall Air Force Base posted a message on its official Facebook page that no one was injured but that the tornado damaged structures and vehicles on the military installation. The air base was hammered by Hurricane Michael in October.

Stuck and Stressed: The Health Costs of Traffic

By Austin Frakt

Sometimes the seemingly small things in life can be major stressors.

Nobody likes sitting in traffic, for example. According to one study, commuting is one of the least pleasant things we do. But it’s not just an annoying time waster — there’s a case that it’s a public health issue.

According to analysis by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the average American commuter spends 42 hours per year stuck in rush-hour traffic. In the Los Angeles area, the figure is nearly twice that, equivalent to more than three days. A 2015 Los Angeles Times poll found that among residents of that city, traffic concerns exceed those pertaining to personal safety, finances or housing costs.

The total cost of traffic associated with lost time and wasted fuel exceeds $100 billion per year. As time slips away, idling vehicles add pollution, which has environmental and health consequences, including contributions to climate change. Long-term exposure to vehicle exhaust is associated with respiratory problems, especially in children.

Another toll is to psychological well-being, stemming from the sense of helplessness we experience in traffic, and its unpredictability. This, too, can be quantified. One study found that to save a minute of time spent in traffic, people would trade away five minutes of any other leisure activity. Another study found that we deal better with the commuting delays that we can anticipate.

Stressed-out people can take out their frustration on others. We’ve probably all experienced or seen road rage, but aggressive behavior can carry over beyond a commute.

recent analysis of Los Angeles traffic, published in the Journal of Public Economics, documented a link between congestion and domestic violence. From 2011 to 2015, the study found, extreme evening traffic on two major highways — I-5 and I-10 — increased the incidence of nighttime domestic violence by about 9 percent.

What the researchers, Louis-Philippe Beland, an economist at Louisiana State University, and Daniel Brent, an economist at Penn State, mean by “extreme traffic” in their study is best explained with an example: The average evening commute along I-10 for residents of Santa Monica in their study was 45 minutes. Extreme traffic would increase this to 87 minutes.

“Life stressors act as emotional cues,” Mr. Beland said. “What our work shows is that in extreme cases some people’s responses to those cues can be quite large, leading to violence.”

Teaching children how to manage stress and traumatic events from a young age can be important. “Throughout life, mindfulness, healthy eating, sleeping and exercise, and hobbies that blow of steam all help,” said Rebecca Mooney, director of Melrose Alliance Against Violence, which raises awareness about domestic violence and related issues in and around Melrose, Mass.

Resource: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/21/upshot/stuck-and-stressed-the-health-costs-of-traffic.html

 

Florida Panhandle City Borrows $50M for Hurricane Cleanup

Officials in Florida’s Panhandle have agreed to take out a $50 million loan to help pay for Hurricane Michael-related bills until federal reimbursements are received.

The Panama City Commission approved the measure Monday, calling the loan a “necessary evil.”

City Manager Mark McQueen told officials that it will cost between $60 and $80 million just to cover debris pickup and security measures.

The News Herald reports officials hope to repay the loan with the reimbursement. Bay District School, Bay County and other municipalities in the area hit by Michael on Oct. 10 are also considering similar measures.

They’re borrowing the money from PNC Bank.

McQueen told commissioners the hurricane is expected to put a “great strain” on the city’s budget.