Hurricane Michael left a wake of destruction in the Florida panhandle when it hit as a Category 4 storm on Oct. 10, leveling homes and destroying boats when it made landfall in Mexico City, Fla.
The Boat Owners Association of the United States catastrophe team, called the CAT team, has been in the area since Oct. 13 salvaging the few boats it can in the wreckage, but says many of them will be a total loss.
“This was a very destructive storm,” Mike McCook, the field operations manager for the CAT team, told Trade Only Today. “There’s probably more boat damage than any I’ve ever seen from any individual storm.
“We’re plugging along with salvage operations as we can,” said McCook. “We’re trying to get boats out of harm’s way if we can. But there’s a higher percentage of boat losses than any storm I’ve dealt with. Hurricane Katrina was bad, don’t get me wrong, but this was so intense and strong and destructive, it’s unbelievable.”
McCook, who has been doing this work for 38 years, said the storm was so powerful, there was virtually nothing boat owners could do to prepare.
“Because of the strength of this storm, I’m not sure a lot of preparation would have helped,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t prepare, but with a Category 4 or 5 storm, I’m not sure what you could do.”
The team has been working in Panama City, Panama Beach, Mexico City and still can’t access Tyndall Air Force Base, said McCook.
Cell service has not been restored to some of the hardest-hit areas, so McCook expects more claims to come in once it is back.
“We’re still locating boats and we’re still receiving assignments because people haven’t been able to get their claims reported due to the lack of service,” he said. “We’re trying to get the word out that, if people identify us by our cars or shirts, to please approach us and let us know they are a client.”
McCook says the large path of destruction is in an area with a lot of value in boats.
“We’ve been able to get in just about everywhere, not necessarily to get any work done, but we’ve been in to take a look at everything,” he said. “The destruction is virtually complete in that area. You walk down the street and it’s like, there’s nothing there.”
He says the work will go on for weeks, but that owners won’t have to wait until the CAT team removes the vessel before receiving their claim checks.
“This will have a very long tail because of all the boats that will require removal,” McCook said. “If boat’s been underwater since the storm, it’s a total loss, let’s face it. But we want to get money in insured hands as soon as possible. That’s a big goal for us.”