I Have Tornado Damage: What Comes Next?

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Photo from Mike McCune

The weather season can’t seem to make up its mind at the present time, walking the line between winter and spring. In Oklahoma City, April means snowfall. In Arkansas, there’s a mix of snow and tornadoes. In Colorado, as we write this, it’s a balmy 39 degrees with light wind. By now, most of us are used to warmer weather. But any time weather gets this unpredictable, you have to plan for the worst.

That was a lesson I learned the hard way Sunday night as I postponed my weekly Mad Men viewing party to hide in a closet as the sirens went off outside. (Today we’re close to freezing temperatures.)

You get the point — and if you’re a homeowner, you’d better make sure your homeowners insurance policy has you covered!

In a recent post from Allstate, the insurer reminded customers of the devastating personal and material losses that can occur as a result of tornadoes and other acts of nature.

“In their most severe form, tornadoes can toss cars around like toys, uproot trees, damage homes and commercial buildings, and devastate entire communities,” the company stated.

 

But that’s just the start of it.

The danger isn’t over even after the storm passes, as the website ready.gov points out, warning people to “be sure it’s safe before you start inspecting your home.” And when it comes to a safe inspection, they recommend following these safety precautions to protect against personal injury:

  1. Wear sturdy boots, work gloves and long sleeves to avoid injury from storm debris.

  2. Look for exposed nails, broken glass and other common post-storm hazards.

  3. Report any downed power lines to police and to your utility company. (Don’t touch any object in contact with downed lines).

  4. Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights as light sources, not candles.

  5. Upon entry of the home, you should be aware of electrical and gas-leak hazards. “A burning smell, sparks or frayed wiring are all potential signs of electrical issues, and you can typically smell a gas leak as well,” a representative explained. “If you identify either, leave the property and call the appropriate services immediately. Even if you don’t see or smell signs of a leak, you still may want to turn off utilities as a precautionary measure.”

  6. Furthermore, the website urges homeowners to inspect walls for cracks, stating that new cracks in your foundation and in walls, “especially around doors and windows,” can indicate an unhealthy shift. “Don’t forget to check any frequently unused rooms,” the Ready rep explained. “Check the levelness of floors. Any change in the levelness of a floor could be caused by a crack in the home’s foundation.”

  7. A homeowner should also pay special attention to their property’s plumbing, inspecting water heaters, pumps, and softeners for signs of water leaks. “Run all faucets, flush all toilets and watch to see if there’s any leakage from the connecting water pipes,” the rep said, adding that it would be a good idea to check for roof leaks as well. “Even if your roof appears intact, there might be damage you haven’t noticed. Keep an eye on the ceiling and walls in the weeks following a tornado, since newly developing damp spots or stains may indicate leaks from the roof.”

  8. Last but not least, Ready recommends that you inspect gutters to make certain connections are stable and secure, “since faulty gutters can result in water damage in your home.”

 

In Summary

As you encounter threats or damages to your home, it would be best to take a hi-res camera (or your smartphone if it’s a good one) and take pictures of all the damage that you see. If there is something that needs attention, contact your insurance company at once. Many insurers will suggest, if it calls for it, that you make temp repairs. These can include setting a tarp over a damaged roof or boarding up broken windows. Still, wait for the go-ahead and don’t undertake anything yourself unless there is an immediate risk of danger or injury to you or another person.

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