ALBANY — Georgia Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jay Florence visited Albany Thursday and toured several of the storm-ravaged areas of the city. He urged homeowners to file insurance claims in a timely fashion and to beware of unscrupulous traveling contractors.

“This is obviously a severe and widespread weather event, and we’re coming down to see firsthand the damage and look at the homes and talk to homeowners and make sure that they’re reaching out to their insurance agents, their insurance companies, and that the insurance companies are responding properly,” Florence said. “We’ve talked to some folks, and right now there are delays in getting the adjusters in, but the insurance companies have put the people up temporarily, in temporary lodging which is good.

“I know that several insurance companies are ramping up the number of adjusters that they’re sending out so they can get people up on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Florence said the number of early claims filed caught his attention.

“We’ve done initial numbers and they will likely grow, but we estimate about 2,500 claims from this event,” he said. “We don’t have a damage amount estimate yet, but it’s a serious event. We are down here touring for a few hours, talking to homeowners and trying to make sure they know they can call our hotline and call us if they’re having any trouble with their insurance companies.

Florence urged people to first call their insurance agent.  “They need to call their insurance company, talk to them directly, and if they are having problems in those two areas they should reach out to the department of insurance and we’ll be able to help,” Florence said. “Right now, our primary responsibility is to make sure homeowners are protected and consumers are protected. That’s our primary focus. But certainly we have a fraud division that looks out for fraudulent claims.

Florence added that homeowners need to be aware of predatory contractors who tend to flow into disaster areas. He said if a proposed deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is. He advised homeowners to ask to see a copy of a local business license before entering into a contract.