Family unable to return to hurricane-damaged home for holidays

Tiptons endure painful wait for flood insurance to cover repair costs

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A family had hoped to return to their Jacksonville Beach home in time for Christmas. However, they are still waiting for flood insurance to repair the damage caused by water that came flooding into their house when Hurricane Matthew blasted the coast more than two months ago. 

John and Michelle Tipton are still waiting, and living with heartbreak, but the final diagnosis on the health of their Azalea Drive home seems terminal. 

"It's just endless waiting right now. It's frustrating -- big time," Michelle Tipton said. 

During the storm in the beginning of October, the home near the Intracoastal Waterway suffered damage from winds battering the structure and water that came barging inside. 

"You see more mold in here. I can't imagine that's very good for you," John Tipton said while showing News4Jax his family's home Friday. 

Repairing the damage essentially means rebuilding the house, which was originally constructed in 1976.

The Tiptons said fixing the damage from wind happened quickly, with a claim through homeowners insurance.

But the water damage goes through flood insurance. The Tiptons said that process seems to be as painful as watching the mold grow on the walls and raccoons trying to move into their home. 

"You paid your insurance for 25 years, and you had a horrible loss like this, (you would think) that they would do what they should and what's right. And that's not necessarily how the system seems to be panning out," Michelle said.

While the family waits, they lament the sorrow of missing out on being home for the holidays because their home is currently a wreck. 

"You see stuff on TV, but you don't really, you can't really realize the impact of it until you see, you know, where you used to brush your teeth," John said. 

The Tiptons said they truly believed they would be able to return home before Christmas. Instead, they continue living with a friend in the area and continue to apply for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

"I think I'm ready to come home and we're not getting anywhere. Day to day, you think something is going to change and this week is going to be the week. And we're eight or nine weeks into it and we're not coming home anytime soon, that's the sad part of it. We're not going to be home for Christmas. That's a hard thing," Michelle said. 

The Tiptons also said they continue to provide any and all documentation or evidence the flood insurance adjuster asks for, but with little measurable progress. 

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