Updated: Aug 27
⚠️Trigger Warning: a true story from United Survivors Disaster Relief, featuring canine cadaver search teams, and a resilient hound named Diane.
This is the first feature of a new Claim Pulse™ blog series: From the Field, highlighting what property insurance policyholders and property insurance professionals experience before, during, and after property losses. For each installment, I handpick compelling, interesting, or educational stories.
The humorous insurance commercials we see definitely provide some laughs and levity, but any victim of a property loss, and any professional that works within the property insurance claim industry is aware of the seriousness, and depth of property losses. More than just property are lost, and trauma for their victims may last many years to come.
However, thanks to on-the-ground disaster volunteers like Doug Quinn and Heather Shapter of United Survivors Disaster Relief, the healing can begin sooner. Volunteers like these are often on the disaster scene before roads are cleared, before power is restored, and before insurance professionals like public, staff, and independent adjusters can even begin to assess damage for insured properties.
While all disasters are challenging, the devastating Kentucky floods in the end of July, and beginning of August, 2022 were especially heartbreaking, as most residents affected did not have insurance to help them financially recover. Sadly, many people perished in the flood waters.
Animals suffer in natural disasters and from property damage, too (in fact, some of the details of this story coincide with International National Dog Day).
Please be warned that there may be triggering content within this article, as it contains the raw reality of many disaster victims: physical loss, emotional devastation, and death.
However, this story also details resilience, the presence of an ever-loving spirit of charity across the United States, and healing.
May the latter reside—and grow—in your heart, from reading this article.
Be well, and always keep hope!
The following are a "From the Field" contribution from Doug Quinn and Heather Shapter, of United Survivors Disaster Relief.
August 9th, 2022
United Survivors Disaster Relief scouting trip to the flood zone. First flight in 3 weeks.
August 10th, 2022
I don’t know how ppl evacuate & leave their dog behind. It breaks my heart to think of this poor animal waiting patiently inside this destroyed house for her people to come back.
The house had a distinct smell of death & I walked around to the front door to check for bodies & I saw her face in the darkness of the doorway. So glad we stopped.
August 12th, 2022
Home for a minute. Its only a minute, but I will spend it absorbing just how lucky I am.
August 18th, 2022
Body recovery, Eastern Kentucky:
In the hollow where we are camped, these people are looking for their family member who was taken away by the flood & has been missing (now presumed dead) for 2 weeks. Her son was holding her hand but she was sucked into a whirlpool of raging floodwaters. The cadaver dog teams have been through here 4 times with no luck. This was once a field but now has been covered by 4+ feet of mud & debris, making the search all but impossible. You can see that the water filled search hole in the foreground is over 5 feet deep and still not down to ground level.
Most People here had very little warning & had to quickly scramble to higher ground. Unfortunately, 39 people did not make it to safety in time.
United Survivors Disaster Relief team is doing what we can to help the survivors, but the need is so overwhelming that it always feels like it’s not enough.
We will do what we can. Thank you to our generous donors who make it possible for us to come into these situations & ease some degree of the suffering these people are going through.￼￼
August 19th, 2022
While It may not look like it, this is someone’s home. Swept up by the flood waters and smashed into unrecognizable pieces. This is someone’s whole life… All of their belongings are gone. Most people could not afford flood insurance and have very little (if any) resources to fall back on.
The creek that caused this kind of massive damage is usually no more than 6 inches deep and 3 feet across in this holler. On the night of the flooding rose 17 feet in some areas, wiping out whole communities. These families who had very little to begin with, will take years, if not decades to recover from this type of loss.
August 20th, 2022
UPDATE ON DOG FOUND IN KY FLOOD WRECKAGE:
We traveled back to check on her...still living in a destroyed house patiently waiting for her owner to return. Her name is Diane and along with a wellness check, we were able to give her a bath (pictures coming), and track down her owner. The owner has an incredible story that deserves its own post.
Diane's sibling was swept away in the flood but somehow she survived. She is 13 years old and seems very healthy....just starved for affection, as you can see.
The United Survivors Disaster Relief team had plenty of love to shower on this poor girl! Sometimes, that's the most important donation we can bring to a situation like this.
August 22nd, 2022
We did a wellness check on the dog we found sheltering in a destroyed house. She was well fed but starved for affection & filthy. When we pet her, big clouds of brown dirt would rise up from her fur.
The challenge in every cat zone United Survivors Disaster Relief deploys to: how do you provide a sense of normalcy in the midst of chaos? There is no running water & no bathtub to give her the cleaning she desperately needs.
In the end, we settled for a clear section of the debris choked creek & found a way to make it work.
She was such a happy girl getting all that attention from us!
August 22nd, 2022
This is a woman who should not be alive.
Meet Miss Jeanne, the owner of Diane, the dog we’ve been posting about. United Survivors Disaster Relief & Anthony Delmedico's STORM VENTURES GROUP team were on a scouting mission in the Appalachian flood zone & found Diane when we checked this house for bodies… because of the isolated location of the house & washed out bridge, it did not seem possible that anyone could have escaped alive. After some investigation we were able to track down Miss Jeanne and hear her terrifying story.
Miss Jeanne is a 75 year old handicapped woman who was all alone the night raging floodwaters picked up her house and pushed it 500 feet down stream. She laid in a hospital bed in her living room in complete darkness as the water rose inside her house & it drifted away.
I’ve lived through being in a dark house as flood waters rushed in, but I was able-bodied & could escape: I can’t begin to imagine what it must’ve been like as a 75-year-old with a cane who can barely walk. That feeling of being trapped in complete darkness with the water swirling around inside & the whole house being pushed to God knows where. You can see in the pictures what the chaos inside her house looks like.
We see many houses in the flood zone that have been pushed off their foundation… In most cases they were rushed down stream until they hit a single tree which would cut thru the house like a knife and then it would shatter into unrecognizable pieces. If you're still in the house, you're dead. The next day, her family came up the holler for the grim task of collecting her body...but they found Miss Jeanne alive, still sitting in her hospital bed. She was saved because her house was caught by 3 trees positioned perfectly in a row so that the structure didn’t shatter.
She had been talking about cutting down those trees for 10 years and had actually paid someone to come do it, but they never showed up.
We spent some time with Miss Jeanne before we left Kentucky. Although she survived the flood, she has a very long road ahead to get back home. she could not afford flood insurance and as an elderly widow, has very little resources to help her & her dog Diane recover from losing everything & get back home.
We witness tragedies in disaster zones all over the country, but this one is particularly heartbreaking.
As we’ve discussed in previous disasters, it’s one thing to lose everything you own when you’re young and have decades of income producing years to recover, but to be 75 years old and have everything you’ve worked your whole life for wiped out in an instant, is devastating & permanent. Miss Jeanne will spend the last phase of her life trying to cope with this tragedy. I know from personal experience that it will consume, and likely shorten, her life. Imagine if this was your mother or grandmother.
- Doug Quinn and Heather Shapter
Thank you for reading! If you would like to assist the recovery efforts, your tax deductible donation to United Survivors Disaster Relief can be made here:
Every little bit helps.