As the hurricane season progressed in the southern United States, the storms vied for headlines with the presidential election and the war in Iraq. In that faraway country, our military labors vigorously to establish order and replace chaos with an elected government. There is another army, however, that deserves special mention: the army of insurance professionals, mostly property adjusters, that has been dispatched for many months of catastrophe duty.

These cat teams disrupt their personal lives, leave their families, and exchange the comforts and routines of their homes and offices for the rigors of life in the wake of recent storms. Challenges abound, from securing housing (typically, roadside motels) to finding policyholders' properties, many of which have been washed away or so badly damaged as to be unrecognizable.

The working conditions are abysmal. Damage and destruction are everywhere, as are heartbroken home owners and business people. The days are long, usually from sun up to sun down at loss sites, followed by nights filled with paperwork and claim processing. All of this with one eye on the long range weather forecast and the threat of the next storm's taking shape in the Caribbean.

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