With the prospect of high winds and heavy rains that come with monsoon season, Forester Thomas has a piece of advice for Ahwatukee property owners who want to prepare for possibly damaging storms:
Check your insurance.
Thomas, owner of Super Saver Restoration in Ahwatukee, said homeowners insurance especially does not always cover flooding from sources outside the home, especially when torrential downpours occur.
“You don’t know when you’re going to get two inches of rain in 10 minutes,” Thomas said. “No gutters or drains are going to be able to handle that.”
Mountain Park Community Church leaders and members learned the hard way about insurance in September 2014, when a torrential storm flooded its low-lying auditorium with four feet of water and caused an estimated $2 million in damage.
The church’s insurance policy didn’t cover the damage, said member Cindy Galowitch.
Instead, Mountain Park relied on congregation members and Ahwatukee residents and businesses to recover.
“There was a real outporing of support by our memebers and the community in general,” Galowitch recalled, saying that local restaurants fed volunteers who at times worked shifts in teams numbering as many as 100 people.
And congregants also rose to the occasion with their generosity to cover the cost of repairs that volunteers couldn’t handle. The auditorium was finally restored about six months after the storm.
While Mountain Park probably could do nothing to prevent the damage from what Galowitch called “a 100-year storm,” Eric Skoog of Phoenix-based Sunvek Roofing said keeping gutters and storm drains clear can help prevent flooding and especially roof damage.
“It’s important to make sure the roof drains are not plugged with debris so that water can get off the roof so you don’t get a lake up there and get roof collapse,” he said.
Storm-inflicted roof damage can be costly.
Skoog said he occasionally receives hundreds of calls for roof repairs after a major monsoon storm, and they can cost from $1 to $5 per foot.
For Ahwatukee residents, the city offers a variety of tips on preparing for monsoons as well as help during and after a storm in a special “monsoon resource page” at www.phoenix.gov.
And while the city website stresses how valuable sandbags can be in a storm, Phoenix doesn’t offer advance bag-filling events that some neighboring municipalities provide.
Tempe offered such an event last week, and resident B.J. Ayers was grateful for officials’ foresight even though the likelihood of a storm seems weeks away.
“One year … my whole lower backyard flooded so bad,” she said. “Luckily, my house sits up high enough (it didn’t get damaged) but it was suggested to me I get sandbags to put under my RV gate because water was coming into the alleyway and flowing underneath my gate.”
Sandbags aren’t the only way to prevent home damage. Phoenix officials also advise property owners to trim low-hanging tree branches lest wind gusts use them to inflict major damage.
And they said every resident should have a “go kit” packed with cash, a flashlight and other necessities in case they have to evacuate quickly.
City officials also remind residents not to forget Fido, and offer an extensive list of preparation tips to protect pets.
Flood insurance can be an affordable precaution
Insurance experts warn that property owners often erroneously assume they’re protected against water damage caused by external sources, such as floods.
Generally, flood insurance is a separate policy provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federally subsidized program.
That insurance “is fairly cheap for someone not in a flood plane,” said Ahwatukee Allstate Agent David Sanders. “If you’re just trying to protect yourself from a monsoon during the season, it’s usually pretty affordable.
He said that flood insurance typically costs $300-$400 per year and will cover as much as $400,000 in damages.
But just as important, Sanders said, is planning ahead and implementing preventative measures before a storm hits. For example, homeowners with a pool might want to shore up the surrounding area with sandbags.
“Planning ahead prevents a lot of problems,” Sanders added.
For more information on flood insurance: www.floodsmart.gov.
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