One Hurricane, Two Worlds Apart: How Hurricane Irma Impacted Two Distinct Locations

Background and Challenges

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma carved a path of destruction through the Caribbean and Southern United States. Striking Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 5 storm, it then moved toward the Florida Keys, where it hit the islands as a still-devasting Category 4. One of BDO’s hospitality clients suffered the full effects of the hurricane’s impact, bringing challenges that required a tailored approach to each location where their property, people, and assets were located.

With any hurricane, one of the first steps in recovery is getting resources to affected areas, but responding to damage on an island differs from the mainland. For mainland coastal areas, moving supplies and personnel can be done by land, sea, and air.

An island location is different because land isn’t an option. Supplying resources to begin repair and recovery requires operational airports and seaports, and because Irma had caused such significant damage to both, it became a logistical challenge getting people and supplies where they needed to be. It also made assessing the full scale of damage difficult since moving around the islands was almost impossible in the storm’s aftermath.

Businesses also faced an additional challenge: Power and communication outages meant many businesses were limited to cash payments because credit card and other electronic payment methods require both utilities to function.

Florida Keys Challenges:

The impact to the Florida Keys was difficult but not insurmountable. Unlike most island locations, the Keys have a highway that connects them to the mainland. Although the roadway had suffered damage and obstruction due to debris, it was possible to rebuild it quickly. Additionally, the bridges were still viable, and the islands’ proximity to mainland Florida meant helicopters were also an option for getting supplies in place. Because the Keys more heavily lean toward tourism, there was less impact to the overall living situation.

Puerto Rico Challenges:

Puerto Rico was different. The island’s power grid suffered severe damage, and unlike the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico has a large residential population whose homes were destroyed. Because of that, the general population was staying in the same hotels that aid workers were also using, creating logistical difficulties. Many local laborers and contractors had also been displaced and were unable work, meaning additional workers had to be brought in from outside the island.  And without power, hotels were relying on regular shipments of diesel fuel from tankers anchored offshore to power their generators. BDO’s client was going through between hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel each day.

This created an unexpected hurdle for the client when it came to understanding how to navigate the language within their insurance policy. Because the hotel was one of few operating accommodations on the island, and because they were fully booked between aid workers and residents, their revenue actually increased in the immediate aftermath of the storm, creating anomalies in the analysis of their loss revenue calculations. In other words, their insurance company wouldn’t recognize any lost revenue based on the timeframe preceding the loss.


BDO immediately sent a team to both impacted locations and began assessing the damage to the client’s affected properties. By getting professionals in place quickly, BDO was able to begin organizing the data and quantifying the losses the client had faced as well as assisting them in preparing accurate claims with their insurance company.

The nature of the storm also meant there was a long-term components and opportunities to the recovery that BDO was able to help the client with. The hotel in Puerto Rico that was booming because it was one of the only operating properties in the area faced a stiff drop weeks after recovery crews had left the island and renovations from the storm damage began.

It was far from business as usual during that time, though, and the crippling blow suffered by the tourism industry resulted in the client facing a prolonged loss in business. BDO was able to assess the overall impact and present those findings to the insurance company, leading to a more comprehensive and accurate measurement of the client’s lost revenue, resulting in an expedited recovery.


By reacting quickly and being the first team on location, BDO was able to help the client submit their claim quickly and receive funding sooner. This resulted in the hospitality client recovering hundreds of millions of dollars. The client also had peace of mind that their claim accounted for all losses, including business interruption, so the monies received enabled them to begin the process of making a full recovery.