You cleaned out your gutters, tied down the lawn furniture and stocked up on batteries for the flashlight -- or at least that's what you told everyone at the office -- but Floyd left behind a mess. Here are a few suggestions for coping with the damage:
What storm damage coverage does my homeowners insurance policy include?
Homeowners insurance will cover damage from rain coming through a leaky roof or a broken window, but generally won't cover flooding, including seepage in the basement. You can make inexpensive, temporary repairs to prevent further damage, but check with your insurance company before doing more. If your car floods, that's covered under your comprehensive coverage, if you have it. If a tree falls and damages a structure, the insurance carried by the structure's owner pays (so your insurance pays if a neighbor's tree hits your house). If a tree falls and hits nothing, insurance will not pay to clean it up.
The basement flooded. What should I do right away?
If you think that standing water has come in contact with live electric cords, switches or receptacles, turn off electricity to the area. Wear rubber-soled boots and rubber gloves. If the water is more than an inch deep, rent a pump to get it out. Remove sand and mud before they dry. Clear away rugs, furniture and other items. Scrub floors and walls with soap and water. After the rain stops, air out the house.
All my stuff got wet from the rain. What can I do?
The experts advise wearing rubber gloves, because you never know what's in that rainwater. Don't make the problem worse by sticking your wet clothing in plastic bags where mildew and odors will grow. If you cannot wash them right away, line-dry them. Before washing, rinse mud from clothing; use a disinfectant like bleach. Unplug wet TVs, stereos or VCRs and let them dry on their own. If they smoke or crackle when you plug them in, they need repairs. For carpets, professional cleaning is best, and carpet may not be salvageable if the water that flooded it is not sanitary. If you can pull up the carpet, drape it outdoors. Hose it down and use a stiff-bristled broom to work a low-sudsing disinfectant carpet cleaner deep into the dirty spots. Dry the floor thoroughly before replacing the carpet. If you can't pull up the carpet, try moving furniture off it and drying it out with fans, dehumidifiers or a vacuum designed to extract water. Call 1-800-882-8846 for more specific information.
My yard looks like a disaster area. How do I make repairs?
After you clean up the fallen debris, reset and stake tilted plants. If part of a hedge was taken out, buy a replacement section the same height as the original; don't buy a smaller one and prune the rest of the hedge to fit. In trying to decide whether a plant is worth saving, remember that if the bark is split, exposing the cambium beneath, it probably will not survive. But you can leave doubtful plants in place and wait.
A huge tree came down in the yard, and I want to saw it up for firewood, but I've never used a chain saw before.
Leave the big trees to experienced operators, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, which has advice on chain saws and other disaster-related information on its Web site -- http://www.ext.vt.edu/ pubs/disaster/disaster.html. Wear protective gear, read the manual before starting, put the chain saw on the ground before turning it on, and beware of "kickback."
Or you could wait a week or two, and call a contractor, after prices have come down from the post-storm rush.
The power went out, and my refrigerator is full of food. What's safe to eat?
Keep what cold air you have inside. Don't open the door any more than necessary. You'll be relieved to know that a full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures about 2 days; a half-full freezer about 1 day. If your freezer is not full, group packages so they form an `igloo` to protect each other. Place them to one side or on a tray so that if they begin thawing, their juices won't get on other food.
Snakes, rodents and insects have washed into my home from the storm. Yick!
Leave wild things a clear escape route, get out of their way and stay calm. Don't handle them; if you have to remove a dead one, wear gloves. Most snakes are not poisonous. If you know the snake is not poisonous, you can pin it down with a long pole and scoop it up with a shovel. Or call your local animal-control office for help. Rats and mice can be killed with traps.
Is this it, or are we getting more?
Storm experts had predicted this would be an above-normal hurricane season. In an average season, there are six Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, two of which are intense. So far this season, there have been seven hurricanes, four of which were intense. And the season does not officially end until November.
SOURCES: "The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Emergencies," (Rodale Press); Virginia Cooperative Extension Service; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Allstate Insurance; U.S. Department of Agriculture; Carpet and Rug Institute.