ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla.—Closed until further notice reads the sign on the doors of Viola's Italian Restaurant. It describes the present condition, but does not tell the entire story.
"When we open these drawers water came pouring out," said Sarah Viola, the proprietor. "There's still a little water in there."
The floors of the popular eatery is covered with millions of grains of sand.
"There's sand all over the place it almost smells like the ocean," she said.
Viola is still trying wrap her mind around the damage Hurricane Mathew caused at the family-owned restaurant. She said they're still in shock.
"It looks like our pizza oven and our stove are OK, but everything will have to come out because of the amount of water damage in there," she said.
The force of the storm was so powerful, it pushed the garbage dumpster from back of the building to the front.
The family has hurricane insurance but a phone call with the agent has left them in turmoil; they were told the damage was caused by a storm surge and their policy does not cover the loss.
"They're telling us our policy doesn't cover flood insurance and that a storm surge is not considered a hurricane - it is considered a flood," she said.
Is she correct?
"The policy language is pretty clear if there's a claim to be paid it will be paid," said David Miller. Miller, President of Brightway Insurance, has been in the industry a long time. He said if Viola's agent is correct, if the policy in fact states what she was told - but he said that does not mean it final.
"In some of these cases it may take a while to figure out whether it was rising water or falling water," he said.
Viola is not one of his clients, even so he offered her this advice: appeal.
"The best thing in those cases they can do is elevate it, go through the management chain and get some other people involved," said Miller.
Viola said she plans to fight back, she believes her hurricane policy should cover her loss.
"We're glad we are safe," she said, "but it is definitely an overwhelming feeling at this point."
Viola said it will be a few days before the adjuster actually visits the damaged property and make a final determination.
For now Viola's Italian Restaurant is closed until further notice