Early insurance claims and reports from adjusters in the field indicate insurance companies expect to pay out nearly $8 million in the Washington area as a result of Tropical Storm David.
The estimates are based on predictions by State Farm, the nation's largest private insurance company, which covers about 15 percent of the insured homeowners in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Most of the havoc wrought by the storm as it moved through this area appeared to have been caused by the wind, which blew down trees and power lines and sent debris flying through windows.
Damage caused by wind storms generally is covered by homeowners' insurance and similar coverage of home furnishings and personal possessions often carried by apartment dwellers.
Property owners normally are required to carry homeowners' insurance by the lending institutions that hold their mortgages.
Therefore if a free falls on a house and lets rain inside, a homeowner's policy is likely to cover the losses, with the exception of a relatively small deductible, typically $100.
While most homeowners -- and many tenants -- are likely to have insurance against wind losses, they are not covered in most instances against losses caused by rising flood waters.
Only a small percentage of the Washington area homes and businesses flooded by David were insured against flood losses, according to the Federal Insurance Administration.
Gloria Jiminez, director of the agency that for the last 10 years has controlled the sales of flood insurance, said there are only 4,179 flood insurance policies in effect in this region.
Although there are no figures on the total number of buildings within the area's flood-prone zones, Jiminez noted that nationally only about 20 percent of the homes and businesses that qualify for flood coverage have bought policies. She said metropolitan Washington's figures were probably close to the national percentage.
In the District of Columbia, only 48 structures are protected with insurance against floods, one of them being the Watergate complex. Most of the flood-prone land in D.C. is in park areas, Jiminez said, so there are fewer buildings susceptible to damage.
The agency expects about 200 claims to be submitted by property owners in the metropolitan area.
Another 2,300 claims may be field from all states affected by the storm, an agency spokesman said.
Flood insurance policies are sold by the same agents who sell other kinds of property insurance, but the flood program is administered by the federal government. Prices for the coverage vary, but the national average for a policy on a $100,000 home is $210 a year.
Those property owners who suffered losses from the storm may be eligible for additional government assistance if their areas are declared disasters.
Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, after touring hard-hit sections of Baltimore County, said late yesterday he will ask for disaster aid for storm victims. Virginia Gov. John Dalton already had declared areas of his state a disaster.
Families and businesses in those areas may be eligible to apply for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.
Other benefits available should President Carter declare a disaster area include temporary housing, tax refunds to offset losses and unemployment payments.
The collection of loss figures and documentation of damage necessary before federal authorities accept the designation of a disaster area can take several days, officials said. Until that basic reporting is completed, the federal relief agencies can't do anything said a spokesman for the U.S. Disaster Response and Recovery Office.
A family in a state in which a disaster area has been declared may seek help from the local emergency coordinator, said Bill Kalberer of the Virginia energy and emergency services office.
"We have to determine the extent of damage before we can ask the SBA for help," Kalberer said.
There is one major piece of personal property not covered by flood insurance or home owners' insurance. That is the family car.
Should an automobile be damaged by flood waters, the only insurance that will help is a car policy that includes comprehensive coverage.