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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 Weather News

“I would never wait to make a repair of significant damage — if I have the opportunity to get that repaired, I would take it," Garcia said.

Still, she said property owners should keep receipts and document everything through photos, videos or written notes, and also contact their insurance providers as soon as possible.

That last piece of advice is being heeded, with insurance agencies across the state reporting large volumes of claims in recent days, including in Central Texas.

“It’s lots of broken pipes and tankless water heaters that are on the outside of homes and can’t handle these freezing temperatures,” said Stacy Reed, manager of the Reed Agency Group in Austin. “People have two inches of water on their first floors and caved-in ceilings.”

Reed said typical policies won’t cover the pipe itself but will cover the damage done to flooring, dry wall and ceilings.

“This has been devastating for a lot of people, and for many it happened in the middle of the night when the pipes freeze and they wake up and have water coming out of a wall," she said. "There has been more than one person crying on the phone.”

 

Reed advises property owners to take as many photos as they can to document the damage. Then get plumbers and contractors out as quickly as possible to get estimates. Pay out of pocket if you can and keep all receipts and documentation.

Chris Pilcic, a spokesman for State Farm insurance, said it will be weeks before the full extent of the damage is known, but calls are already coming in. State Farm customers can get claims started virtually and have the option for video walkthroughs with agents, something the company has been doing since spring of last year.

“When you see a severe weather event, even in terms of a hurricane or tornado outbreak, generally speaking, they tend to hit a couple of somewhat isolated areas. This really impacts across the entire state of Texas. A lot of major metropolitan areas and rural areas, we have customers reporting damage and damage mostly from frozen and burst water pipes or something associated with water. There’s no area of the state that’s been spared."

Even the most minor cracks could have consequences. An eight on a inch crack can spill about 250 gallons of water a day Pilic said. The insurance company is also expecting claims related to structural damage to walls, ceilings and floors.

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