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Storm damage - a guide to picking up and going on

Updated on October 29, 2012

Surviving Hurricane Sandy, blizzards, and any other tropical storm.

On June 29, 2012, a huge storm with hurricane force winds and isolated tornadoes hit the East coast of the US, particularly the area of Maryland where I live. The high winds created widespread power outages leaving over 2 million people in the dark, but, luckily, not for me. In fact, even though the picture there in the top was a beautiful 80 foot tall tree (operative term "was") and it toppled directly onto my my gorgeous convertible car, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. After all, my dogs were all unharmed as was my house, myself, and my friends. As my Dad would say "It's only a car"...and a hot tub...and a shed...and siding...and, and, and...

But, when one is in the midst of cleaning up from storm damage, it's not always so easy to see the bright side of things. Clearing branches, roadways, skimming pools and assessing storm damage can be quite a physical as well as an emotional task. Hurricanes, tornadoes and severe weather leave large damage in their paths.

I hope to impart to you some things that I've learned through my storm clean up that I hope you never have to use. But, just in case...here goes.

Picture credit: quite sadly, every one of these storm damage photos are damage to my own property.

Update: 13JUL12 - my car was, quite sadly, totaled by the tree. Scroll down to Lesson #4 to see what I learned about that experience...

Update: 27AUG12 - the storm may have robbed me of my last car (which I still miss) but I have a brand new 2013 convertible now! It's a gorgeous car and my next purchase is a carport to protect it!

Update: 29OCT12 - Hurricane Sandy is giving us a rather vivid punch here in Maryland. I'm hoping my trees withstand the 60 mph gusts that are coming!

storm damage restoration
storm damage restoration

Recovering from storm damage

Lesson #1: Take stock of the storm damage

I happened to be at my cabin in WV when the storm hit. We lost power and came home to my house in MD. My first inkling that things were going to be bad was that there were full trees lying in the major highway. My next inkling was when I couldn't get into my own driveway - a county owned tulip poplar was literally lying across my car and my front yard.

The shock of realizing that my favorite convertible car of all time was under that mess brought immediate tears to my eyes. It was just 6 years old and I'd just turned 50K a few weeks before. I considered it just "breaking in" - little did I know that it would be broken. Anyway...

The very first thing I did was grab a notebook and a pen. As I walked around the yard, I jotted down everything I could see that was damaged by the hurricane force winds. I lost part of my well, my hot tub cover was gone, my new shed had a tree lying across it. All of these went into my notebook.

Lesson #1: Take note of everything. Even little things can add up to a lot when the repair bills come flowing in so jot down anything and everything you see. And, use a sturdy notebook that the pages will not come out of as you're going to be referring to it a lot in the next few weeks.

It's only a car...It's only a car...It WAS only a car....

It's only a car...It's only a car...It WAS only a car....
It's only a car...It's only a car...It WAS only a car....

Good notebooks in which to record storm damage

I started using a legal pad but realized quickly that the pages would come out and I could lose valuable records of the storm damage. So, I went out and bought an old style composition notebook which is bound so the pages will stay in. If I lived in an area of the county which frequently weathered storms (pun intended), such as Tornedo Alley, I'd probably invest in an even sturdier journal such as those below.

This notebook is weatherproof!

If you're out in the rain or snow, this is the notebook for you. No smudging, not soggy paper. This is a must have if you live in a stormy area.

A waterproof pen

That nice waterproof notebook won't do you much good if you use a regular ink pen when trying to write in the rain. So, pick up one or two of these cool pens. They'd be great to use in boats also.

storm restoration
storm restoration

Recovering from storm damage

Lesson #2: Take pictures of everything

I really can't stress this enough - you must take photos of any and all damage caused by the storm so that your insurance company has proof of the damage. This is where a new digital camera comes into play. I actually doubled up on my pictures by snapping photos of downed trees, live wires, and my poor car with my iPhone and my Nikon D5000. And, since pictures are digital now, I must have taken about 100 as there's no cost to develop them.

Take pictures from different angles too - not just from the front. Other angles can show a more comprehensive picture of the decimation. In fact, this picture of my car shows even more damage than the one at the top. Later down, you'll see what it looked like once the tree was cut up and pulled off it. I could almost hear my car groan...

My "new" shed...

My "new" shed...
My "new" shed...

Cameras to have on hand to record storm damage

My little Sony waterproof camera has been indispensable in capturing pictures while it was still raining. And this gem of a camera does a panorama view too so gives a getter overview of the entire damage. I used my Nikon D5000 for close ups as it had a strong telephotos and, of course, I used my iPhone as I could email the pictures quite easily.

Here's my Squidoo article on my review of my Sony underwater camera: Personal review of the Sony DSC-TX10 underwater camera.

And, finally, here's a few cameras I recommend:

Nikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 16.2 MP Exmor R CMOS Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom and 3.0-inch LCD

Canon EOS Rebel T1i 15.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD and EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens

hot tub damage
hot tub damage

Recovering from storm damage

Lesson #3: Call insurance immediately!

Do not pass go or collect $200 (sorry; reference to Monopoly...)! Pick up any phone that works and call insurance. You can bet you'll be on hold like I was for a full hour but persevere - it's worth it. You need to call the emergency insurance number if the storm hits after hours or on weekends but do it! Even if you don't have your insurance policy number with you, the insurance personnel can easily look you up by address.

If you have a car and house damage like I did, you'll have to put in an insurance claim for each. When you talk to insurance, make sure you ask them what you can and cannot do before they send an adjuster out to view your damage. In my case, since the tree was lying across my yard and making access to the house difficult, I got verbal approval to have it cut up and moved to the side until the insurance adjuster came out to view the storm damage. And, when you talk to the insurance person, make darn sure to note down the insurance claim number and the name of the person you spoke to in that notebook you just bought.

in the case of my hot tub in the picture here, I got approval to have the hot tub people come out and give me a temporary cover to protect the tub until another cover can be ordered in 4-6 weeks. Sigh.

Recovering from storm damage

Lesson #4: Keep each and every receipt!

I learned this lesson the hard way when I already lost the receipt for cutting up the tree - I found it again but I was in a mild panic as, you can see, it was $2200! In fact, I've gotten smarter and have taken pictures of the receipts so that I'll always be able to print them out!

It's easiest if you store receipts in one place, like an envelope or even the pocket of a notebook. Wherever you put them, make sure you and at least one other person remember where they are. I LOVE the idea of these receipt scanners and can think of all different things to use them for including keeping track of my gas receipts.

NeatReceipts Mobile Scanner and Digital Filing System

NeatDesk Desktop Scanner and Digital Filing System

Fujitsu ScanSnap Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Mobile Scanner

totaled car
totaled car

Recovering from Storm Damage

Lesson #5 - Retrieve your EZ Pass if your car is totaled!

Here on the East coast, we have toll roads. We also have the option to get little boxes which velcro to the windshield that automatically pay the toll when you go through a certain line in the toll booths. So, of course, John remembered just TODAY (13JUL12) that I sent my poor car off to the salvage yard with the EZ Pass attached. Doh!

So, the moral of this story is to go through the car twice (which I did) and have a 3rd party look through it (which I did - he missed it too) before sending it out of your life forever...

new car
new car

My new car

I may have been down but I wasn't counted out by that big storm! I got my insurance coverage and went and ordered myself a brand new 2013 shiny new convertible. I still miss my old car as it was truly great but I'm loving the replacement too.

A quick guide to the top 5 auto insurance companies

I've been with Erie insurance for about 30 years now for both homeowner's and auto insurance. I can't speak highly enough about the way they cover claims. I've never ever had one issue with them and hope not to for settling these storm damage claims too. I'm seriously surprised they didn't come in as one of the top 5 rated auto insurance companies.

Included in this section are some links to highly rated insurance companies. It's always good to make sure your policy is up to date and priced competitively.

The below are the top 5 auto insurance companies in 2012 as rated by Insurance Quote Review.

I'd love to hear any comments you have about your personal experience or any comments in general. I love to know that people have wandered by so please let those comments fly. Anyone may comment, not just Squidoo members.

Have you ever suffered storm damage?

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    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      Got caught in a hurricane in St Lucia once.... well very close as it changed direction at the last minute... phew

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      No storms... we just worry about earthquake and fire...

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      It's the midst of Hurricane Sandy, and I'm hearing all kinds of wind and bumps and noise. We'll see.

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I hope your property fares this storm better than this summer's storm. Thinking of you today!

    • profile image

      AngryBaker 5 years ago

      knock wood.. no storm damage here... but they are warning us about earthquakes, I think these tips would apply

    • squidoogiftsfor profile image

      squidoogiftsfor 5 years ago

      I went through a phase of every trip I made to USA I got caught in extreme conditions. Earthquakes, snow storm, floods !!

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 5 years ago

      We've been so lucky in the Tampa Bay area. But "Debby" was a bit of a headache for many folks around here. Fortunately, all I had was a leaking roof and a roofer's bill. Your "to do" list is very helpful, especially about the bound notebook and duplicate photos.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: Virginia: this is the hardest I've ever personally been hit even though this was a phantom storm. It sure did damage though!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      It was Hurricane Charley (and 2 others within 6 weeks) that gave us trouble in central Florida. Our house was brand new, so as hurricane proof as they make them and no big trees to fall on it. The community landscaper came out and replanted our young trees three times in that 6 weeks.