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Winter storm damage may rival Hurricane Harvey's price tag, experts say

Bob Sechler and Lori Hawkins, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in Business News

“We've just now started to thaw all across Texas and we really encourage homeowners to be extra vigilant as it gets warmer because if there is damage, it could become more noticeable,” Pilic said.

Farmers Insurance Group agent Craig Straube said he has received dozens of calls at his Lakeway office over the past two days. But he recommends that customers call contractors first.

“Don’t bother with your insurance company — they’re not experts. The first thing the (insurance) adjuster will ask is if you have any estimates, so get those as soon as you can,” Straube said. “If you are fortunate enough to have someone to do the work, take 'before' and 'after' pictures and keep records on the scope of what was done so you can present that to your insurance company.”

Most policies will cover not only your structure, but also your personal belongings such as furniture, he said. What typically isn’t covered is fallen trees or other outdoor issues that haven't caused structural damage.

Straube said the damage caused by this deep freeze is unprecedented in Central Texas, so it will take time to work through all of the issues.

“I have three phones going at a time and the calls keep coming,” he said. “It will take multiple months for us to get through this. It starts with actually being able to find someone to make the repairs. Plumbers are going to be very hard to find.”

On that note, Garcia offered a word of caution to property owners regarding unsolicited offers to repair damage right away. Fraud always picks up in the wake of such weather disasters, she said.

"People should be very careful of solicitations" and should research individuals and companies before doing business with them, Garcia said. "The good guys are probably already booking and filling their schedules, so you just have to be very careful of those that are soliciting.”

 

But even if people are able to find contractors, there is a possibility that workers won't be able to get the parts they need. Repair work on heating and plumbing systems is currently being stymied by a shortage of supplies.

After losing power for three days, Johnstone Supply, a wholesale distributor of heating, ventilation and air conditioning parts and equipment, was able to reopen its Metric Boulevard store on Thursday.

“We’ve got contractors needing equipment to get people warm again,” said Pat Repa, branch manager. “They need parts for furnaces, blower motors, igniters — everything.”

Unfortunately, Johnstone can only sell what it has in stock.

“Our distributor in Dallas is closed down,” Repa said. “We probably don’t have enough inventory to meet demand right now.”

(Additional material from American-Statesman reporter Kara Carlson.)

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