As Hurricane Ida approached New Orleans on a sticky August morning in 2021, Janet Tobias listened to the news, trying to decide if she should evacuate. While she packed, family members called to report they were stuck in fleeing traffic. Fueled by abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, the storm strengthened rapidly. As it began to pour, Tobias, who is in her sixties, decided she’d have to take her chances at home. 

By the time the Category 4 storm made landfall, it was one of the strongest to ever hit Louisiana. It tore through the bayous, lashing boats ashore and splintering telephone poles. Tobias was terrified. Then the power went out. Alone in the darkness, all she could hear was the roar of the wind. “I never been that scared,” she says. 

When the dim morning light finally broke, Tobias found she’d been comparatively lucky: Her porch railing was torn off, and eight windows were shattered. 

In the days and weeks to come, her insurer, Americas Insurance Company, was slow to respond to her $5,000 claim. Like many other companies drawn to Louisiana by its generous government subsidies, Americas Insurance had grown rapidly, increasing its portfolio in the state by 552 percent over a decade. But in Ida’s aftermath, Tobias was one of more than half of its policyholders to file claims — and Americas Insurance didn’t have nearly enough liquidity to cover the $230 million in damages.