October 22, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
43°F

Medina County declares emergency in wake of last week’s storms

Medina County commissioners have declared a state of emergency after last week’s storm caused widespread damage, but officials say it is doubtful state recovery dollars are coming.

That’s because the storm didn’t cause enough damage, officials said.

Medina County Emergency Management Agency Director Christina Fozio told commissioners Tuesday she expects the county to fall short of the criteria to receive funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Those funds are administered through the state. Fozio said commissioners must declare a state of emergency in order to begin the process of seeking recovery funds — but that doesn’t mean they’ll get them.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s likely and we’re over a week into the event,” Fozio told The Gazette. “It’s unfortunate FEMA criteria has become as strict as it has because there are some people out there who really need help and we’re just not able to help them.”

To qualify for any kind of assistance, Fazio said the county must have at least 25 severely damaged or destroyed homes with 40 percent of uninsured loss.

Destroyed and severely damaged homes are defined as follows:

• Homes must have sustained severe structural damage to two or more foundation walls or substantial damage to the roof, making the home permanently uninhabitable;

• The first-floor living area must have been covered by 18 inches or more of floodwater — enough to cover electrical outlets — rendering the home uninhabitable for more than 30 days.

So far, only 11 homeowners have met the criteria among about 250 reports of damage, Fozio said.

Fozio said that even if the county could meet the minimum, there would be no guarantee of funds from the government.

“It would only open the door for individual homeowners to apply for low-interest Small Business Administration loans to repair their property,” she said.

Fazio said those without adequate insurance will struggle to pick up the pieces.

“It’s up to the homeowners to make sure they have insurance that will cover their risks, like sewer backup and basement water,” Fozio said. “They need to be aware of the risks of home ownership and the risks of the communities they live in, and be sure they have the right insurance to cover a loss.

“A lot of what we’re doing in the wake of the storm is public outreach and education.”

It isn’t just homeowners hoping for relief.

County Highway Engineer Michael Salay said his crews have been working almost nonstop since the May 12 storm and have a lot of work ahead of them.

“I’ve been here 39 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” he said. “We haven’t been doing anything other than that since the storm. All our other plans are put on hold until we’re caught up. We were behind to begin with; now we’re really behind.”

Salay said the worst damage was erosion to the shoulders of the roads, but washed-out culverts and removing downed trees are also on the county’s to-do list.

“Places where stone and other materials washed into the ditches, it’s going to be a while before we get to those,” he said.

Salay said his team has gotten some help from private contractors with road repairs and tree removal.

He said he plans to keep working and hopes for help from Columbus.

“We’re keeping track of the costs and if it totals up to a significant amount, hopefully well get some help,” he said.

Last week, Lt. Gov. and State Insurance Director Mary Taylor said residents should contact their insurance companies immediately to begin the recovery process.

“I urge those with any questions about the claim-filing process to utilize the free resources provided by the Ohio Department of Insurance and to call our consumer hotline at (800) 686-1526 for assistance,” she said.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @danpomp32.

Is damage covered?

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor said damage caused by rain, hail, lightning and tornadoes generally are covered by a standard homeowner’s insurance policy and an auto insurance policy’s “comprehensive” or “other than collision” coverage.
Flood insurance is not included in a typical homeowner’s and renter’s policy. It’s made available by the federal National Flood Insurance Program at www.floodsmart.gov and is purchased through an insurance agent. People regularly should review their need for flood insurance because there is a 30-day waiting period for coverage to start.
If you sustained property damage, you should:
• Call your insurance agent or company as soon as you can. Be sure your agent knows how to contact you, especially if you have to move out of your home.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage if permitted by public safety authorities and if you will not endanger yourself.
• Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph any damage.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage.
• Be sure everything is considered in your claim. Back up claims with written estimates.
Taylor also offered tips to avoid contractor fraud:
• Obtain a list of reputable contractors from your insurance carrier, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
• Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
• Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
• If you give a contractor permission to inspect your property, personally watch him conduct the inspection.
• Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
• Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
• Pay the contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash, and do not pay in full until all work has been finished.
Ohioans with insurance questions can call the consumer hotline at (800) 686-1526 or visit www.insurance.ohio.gov for information. Those who have been victimized by contractor fraud should contact the fraud hotline at (800) 686-1527. You can follow the Ohio Department of Insurance on twitter @OHInsurance and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OhioDepartmentofInsurance.
For Medina County Emergency Management Agency updates, go to www.facebook.com/MedinaCountyEMA.