Insurance chief offers tips on storm damage

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Kathy Jefcoats


State insurance officials estimate that Monday night's high winds, rain and hail caused about $32 million in damage to cars, homes and businesses in Georgia.

Clayton County and Henry County residents are still picking up limbs, removing fallen trees and clearing debris, but no serious injuries or deaths have been attributed to the storm.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph T. Hudgens toured damage sites in Jonesboro Tuesday and offered advice to residents.

"We want all Georgia consumers to be familiar with the steps they should take to minimize property damage and financial hardship caused by storms," he said.

Hudgens said residents should make a list of valuables, and photograph or videotape them. The records, along with insurance agent contact information, should be stored in a safe place outside the house, for easier access should a disaster strike.

Homeowners should review their insurance policies for flood coverage, if provided in their community. Hudgens said residents should move quickly to protect their property from further damage, if it sustains initial damage during severe weather.

"If your roof is damaged, cover it with a tarp to prevent water damage from subsequent rain," he said. "Most policies will not cover such damage."

Property owners should understand the difference between actual cash value and replacement-cost coverage for the contents of their homes, he added.

"With actual cash value, you will receive the current value of an item when you file a claim," he said. "In other words, you'll get only 'used' prices for your furniture or television. With replacement-cost coverage, your claim amount will be enough to purchase new items."

Morrow Code Enforcement Officer Marti Tracy said she knows of four homes in the area that were hit, Monday, by fallen trees. An electrical transformer also was damaged, causing power outages in Morrow and Lake City, she said.

"We're very fortunate that homes that were hit by trees didn't hit any living areas," she said. "We consider ourselves blessed."

Henry County Fire Department Capt. Sabrina Puckett reported two house fires in Henry County, from lightning strikes. Trees fell on 14 houses, and 75 roads were impacted by the storm, including a section of I-75 southbound at exit 216, added Puckett.

"One person was trapped in a 'structure,'" she said. "He was extricated and transported to the hospital for evaluation."

Donald Fincher, of Stockbridge, said a fallen tree destroyed his father's 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe. "The whole house shook," said Fincher. "A huge oak tree fell on the truck around midnight."

Fincher, 43, said he was talking online with a friend and went to open the window so the friend could hear the storm. "I had just raised the window up, and before I could step away, the next thing I knew the tree was on the truck," he said.

The tree crushed the roof of the vehicle, damaged its hood, shattered the passenger-side windows, and blew out the windshield, added Fincher.

Clayton State University Spokesman John Shiffert said the school did not lose power or have to cancel classes, but the campus was littered with fallen limbs and yard debris.

"One pretty-good-sized Loblolly pine did come down in back of the Student Center, but no damage was done," Shiffert said. "It fell primarily on a hillside. Crews were out cleaning by 6:30 a.m."

As a precaution, the campus posted advisories online alerting students to be careful of fallen debris.

Following the storm, inmates from the Clayton County State Prison worked with county crews to clear rights of way, said Warden Frank Smith.

"We've been out there with our chainsaws and trucks getting limbs and debris up," he added.