Hurricane Ike produces 76,000 damage claims

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Texas Windstorm Insurance Association general manager Jim Oliver cautioned Wednesday that the final figure will depend on whether claims are determined to be wind or flood damage.

The association says it will pay for wind damage, but not storm surge damage, which it considers to be flooding. "We are going to look at every single claim individually," Oliver said. "That is going to make the process slow."

The number of claims filed with the association has been slowing to 700 to 1,000 each weekday. That's down from about 6,000 daily in the two weeks after the Sept. 13 storm that struck Galveston and southeast Texas.

After private-sector companies largely stopped providing hurricane insurance in many coastal counties, following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the state-chartered association became the wind damage insurer for 14 Texas coastal counties and part of Harris County. It's funded in part by insurance companies that do business in Texas.

Those companies were assessed a combined additional $430 million last month to help pay for Ike's destruction. The companies can recoup some of their association payments through state tax credits, so Texas taxpayers will end up picking up the tab over several years.

Association board members did not impose new assessments at their meeting Wednesday. Oliver said if additional company assessments are needed it probably will not be until 2009. Meanwhile, the association is tapping into its reinsurance policies to help foot the Ike bill.

The fund is still paying claims from Hurricane Dolly, which hit South Texas earlier in the summer. But that was a less costly storm, with 8,102 claims filed with the windstorm fund to date totaling about $280 million in losses.

The Texas Legislature is expected to debate the windstorm association's funding and other Hurricane Ike costs when it meets next year.

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