First half of 2019...

Today, Hurricane Barry made landfall in Louisiana, and its impact will likely be felt into Mississippi, Arkansas, and possibly beyond. For those who think this first named storm marks the beginning of the natural disaster season in the U.S., the following statistics might be of interest:

Since the beginning of the year 2019, there have been 50 federal disaster declarations, 7 of which have qualified for individual assistance. The number of people affected by those 7 disasters live in seven different states and 112 counties. The combined population of those impacted counties exceeds 8,000,000, living in nearly 3,000,000 households.

And now we watch as Barry begins to cause flooding on our southern coast.

It’s been a rough year already.

2019 Disaster Activity & Outlook

We’re nearly to the end of June, marking the first half of the year 2019. According to the FEMA website (https://www.fema.gov/disasters ) there have been 39 declared disasters so far this year, several of which qualify for individual assistance as well as public assistance. People living in areas qualifying for individual assistance can take advantage of the IRS casualty loss program.

Hurricane season just began, and the outlook is for a “near-normal” year, meaning we can expect a dozen named storms.

For 2019, NOAA predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

Despite good snow-packs and a cool wet spring in much of the United States, the National Interagency Fire Center predicts a pretty normal fire season. Their latest report states:

“Looking ahead to August and September the fire potential and resulting activity should increase to Normal in most areas except along the West Coast where Above Normal significant large fire potential is expected due to fuel loading and preexisting dry conditions. A traditional winding down of the Western fire season is expected in Mid-September as fall moisture begins to arrive.”

As I write this, we have witnessed days of tornadic activity that has surpassed that for any previous May by three times. We are currently watching the Arkansas, Missouri & Mississippi rivers race downstream advancing water levels never before seen. This spring’s storms have truly been historic.

When I hear the term “historic” used to describe flooding, I immediately understand that areas that have never before flooded, have been inundated. That, in turn, means that the homes of many residents have been or will be damaged or destroyed by flood waters - and they will have no flood insurance to help them recover from their losses.

In October of 2017, Michael Keller, Mira Rojanasakul, David Ingold, Christopher Flavelle & Brittany Harris wrote:

“When Hurricane Harvey ripped through Hitchcock, Texas, in August, it wasn’t just pummeled by nature. The town of 7,300, just across the bay from Galveston, was also the victim of a bad map: The local flood maps managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency hadn’t been updated since 1983. That made it harder for residents to know if their homes were at risk of flooding—which might explain why fewer than one in four homes had flood insurance in a town that saw severe flooding during the storm.

Hitchcock was no anomaly. FEMA is supposed to review their maps every five years to make sure they still properly indicate flood risk. But that policy hasn’t stopped flood maps created as far back as the 1970s from influencing where people build or if they have flood insurance, and at what rates. When those maps are wrong it leaves taxpayers on the hook if residents, banks or the National Flood Insurance Program need to be bailed out. And it can lead to billions of dollars in losses for uninsured homeowners who didn’t think their house could flood.

Even FEMA’s newer maps are likely to fall short as an accurate indicator of flood risk because they don’t account for rapid rain accumulation, how buildings are constructed, climate change or expected population growth, among other things.”

This is a problem that has no immediate solution, and consequently many lives will be altered forever.

While there is no good cure for these unfortunate victims, the IRS casualty loss program can help. Unreimbursed losses can be claimed as tax deductions for past, current and/or future years. This could be the only source of money flood victims have after a devastating disaster.

Disaster Relief can help victims obtain the information they need in order to file their claims. That’s what we do. It’s all about helping people rebuild their homes and their lives.

And now, historic flooding....

Historic flooding is swamping parts of Nebraska, western Iowa and southeast South Dakota, shattering records in at least six locations, so far.

Some flood protection systems have been compromised, bridges washed out and evacuations ordered in a number of locations in central and eastern Nebraska. Evacuations have also been ordered just across the border in western Iowa.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

flood.jpg

Tornado Outbreak

March 6, 2019

Here we go again. 

On Sunday, March 5th, there were three dozen reports of tornadoes in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  This was the deadliest tornado outbreak in the U.S. since May 2013.

Lee County Alabama Sheriff Jay Jones said Tuesday at a news conference at least 23 people were killed and 90 were injured when the giant EF4 twister with 170 mph winds hit the rural community of Beauregard, and seven or eight people are still missing.  Federal officials estimated that about 1,120 houses were damaged or destroyed.

On Tuesday March 5th, “President Trump approved an expedited major disaster declaration for Alabama in the wake of the deadly tornadoes.

It seems like disasters are striking with incredible frequency.  Even as we pray for victims of one tragic event, another occurs and our attention is shifted to a new group of people who are suffering catastrophic loss.  Yesterday’s victims must feel forgotten in light of today’s new tragedy.

We want people to know we will not forget the people who suffered losses yesterday or a month ago or a year ago.  We remain committed to helping all disaster victims with their recovery through the IRS casualty loss program.

IT’S ALL ABOUT HELPING PEOPLE REBUILD THEIR HOMES AND THEIR LIVES

If you have a loss that has not been 100% reimbursed, call us.  We might be able to help you.

According to the IRS, “You usually have three years from the date you filed your original tax return to file Form 1040X to claim a refund. You can file it within two years from the date you paid the tax, if that date is later.”

IRS will Begin Accepting Tax Returns

January 11, 2019

The IRS will begin accepting 2018 tax returns on Jan. 29, 2019.  At any time after that date, victims of federally declared disasters can file their forms 4684 (Casualty & Thefts) to report losses that may be deductible.  This is often a victim’s first, best opportunity to access ready cash in order to begin the rebuilding process.

2018 was a terrible year for disasters. While there were nearly 100 declared disasters in 2018, the list that follows represents those for which individual assistance is available to those who suffered losses.

 

2018 FEMA Disaster Declarations with Assistance to Individuals & Households

Georgia Hurricane Michael (DR-4400)

Incident period: October 09, 2018 to October 23, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on October 14, 2018

 

Florida Hurricane Michael (DR-4399)

Incident period: October 07, 2018 to October 19, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on October 11, 2018

 

South Carolina Hurricane Florence (DR-4394)

Incident period: September 08, 2018 to October 08, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on September 16, 2018

 

North Carolina Hurricane Florence (DR-4393)

Incident period: September 07, 2018 to September 29, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on September 14, 2018

 

California Wildfires (DR-4407)

Incident period: November 08, 2018 to November 25, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on November 12, 2018

 

California Wildfires and High Winds (DR-4382)

Incident period: July 23, 2018 to September 19, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on August 04, 2018

 

Wisconsin Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Straight-line Winds, Flooding, and Landslides (DR-4402)

Incident period: August 17, 2018 to September 14, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on October 18, 2018

 

Hawaii Kilauea Volcanic Eruption and Earthquakes (DR-4366)

Incident period: May 3, 2018 to August 17, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on May 11, 2018

 

Hawaii Severe Storms, Flooding, Landslides, and Mudslides (DR-4365)

Incident period: April 13, 2018 to April 16, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on May 8, 2018

 

North Carolina Tornado and Severe Storms (DR-4364)

Incident period: April 15, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on May 8, 2018

 

Indiana Severe Storms and Flooding (DR-4363)

Incident period: February 14, 2018 to March 4, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on May 4, 2018

 

Alabama Severe Storms and Tornadoes (DR-4362)

Incident period: March 19, 2018 to March 20, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on April 26, 2018

 

California Wildfires, Flooding, Mudflows and Debris Flows (DR-4353)

Incident period: December 4, 2017 to January 31, 2018

Major Disaster Declaration declared on January 2, 2018

 

Collectively, these disasters killed more than 200 people, damaged or destroyed nearly one million properties, and cost tens of billions of dollars.  I can affirm from visiting many of these areas in the aftermath of the disasters that no mere fact sheet or list of numbers can tell the story of the devastation and suffering.

We at Disaster Relief hope we can serve disaster victims by helping them access their own tax dollars via casualty loss claims and begin the rebuilding process.  For those homeowner/taxpayers who experienced losses in 2018, now is the time to consider filing a claim.  The process is very straightforward. 

 1.     Get a determination of your loss (this is what we can do for you) so you can document your claim

2.     You (or your tax preparer) files a casualty loss claim form 4684 along with your return

 

This may provide a significant tax deduction that could result in a much needed tax refund.

Please let us know if we can help.  You can visit our website at www.disaster-relief.us, or call us at (843) 724-7870.  I plan to be back in the Carolinas, Florida and northern California in the coming weeks and would be glad to meet with you personally.

Mark Stockton

The Camp Fire

December 12, 2018

I have spent the past couple of days in the area of the Camp Fire – the Chico/Paradise area.  I was able to drive to the entrance of Paradise, but not beyond.  It is still off limits - even to most homeowners – while the process of clearing trees and repairing power lines continues.  No one knows how long it might be before residents of Paradise are allowed back in to assess the damage to their homes.

 

The contrast with the hurricane damaged communities is striking.  I did not speak with a single person in the Chico/Paradise area who had not lost their home or had a family member or close friend lose their home.  The stoicism disguises a burden of grief that has weighed down the entire populace.  Hurricanes Florence & Harvey damaged or destroyed more homes, but the tragic nature of what happened to one entire, small community in northern California is so dramatic it is difficult to imagine or explain.

After Hurricane Florence

December 9, 2018

On September 14, 2018, Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wilmington, NC.  The devastation that followed was of epic proportion.  Although it weakened from a category 3 hurricane to category one before hitting the coast, the rains and storm surge that accompanied the event were disastrous.  It has been estimated that more than 30,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in North and South Carolina – about the same number as were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey on the Texas coast a year earlier.  In New Bern, NC, a town of only 30,000 residents, more than 4,300 homes were damaged or destroyed.

 

I visited New Bern in mid-October and the clean up was still going on.  There were mountains of debris stacked beside roads in front of houses that must have been uninhabitable.  However, as I had seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston in September of 2017, most houses appeared as if nothing had happened when viewed from the curbside.  Some homes showed evidence of water depth on their exteriors, but many did not.  It was impossible to tell whether the homeowners had vacated the properties or were inside relaxing in their living rooms.  It was a very odd experience.

 

As I write this, I am on my way to Paradise, CA – the town that was virtually wiped off the map by the Camp Fire which burned 150,000 acres and destroyed an estimated 10,000 homes.  I’m curious how my impression will contrast with that of the hurricane damage I have seen.