Hurricane Damage and Insurance (part 1)
If your car was flooded: Even though a car may start, once the electronics have dried out, anytime water comes into contact with the computer chips, it's advisable to have the system checked out by a mechanic with the proper diagnostic equipment. Other areas that may need attention include the exhaust system and the brakes. The salt water may have rusted the iron brake rotors and will cause them to grab or lock. The exhaust system will rust from water sitting in the muffler. High pressure-wash the underside of the car to remove any remains of salt or flood debris, and if possible, have the underside coated with proper oil type rust spray.
If water entered the interior, take out all of the carpeting and let it dry thoroughly. If you leave damp carpeting inside the car, it will lead to rust and mildew that could cause major problems several years later. Most full coverage, car insurance covers flood damage. If the water reaches the inside of your car, your insurance company will probably declare the car a total loss. If your car has been subject to salt water to the floor level it will be a problem with rust and corrosion of any parts that the salt water touched. Wash the car foot wells, inside and out, as well as the underside and engine bay with fresh water for a considerable time to flush any salt away.
If your home has sustained damage: Get the insurance company’s approval for any repairs, other than those necessary for protection of the property until the insurance company can be contacted. In the Bahamas, we were many days before the insurance companies could be contacted, due to lack of phones and the flooding in the downtown business area. People were fixing roofs as best as possible to contain the damage before the insurance adjuster even saw the building.
Wet upholstered furniture should be moved to a covered patio or carport to dry. If the upholstery was really soaked, rent a vacuum to extract the water. However, most furniture today will be garbage if it gets wet. The pressboard wood will expand, crack and fall apart. Fabric that has stayed wet for any length of time will be moldy and probably not worth saving. Soaked wall-to-wall carpeting should be lifted up and the padding removed as soon as possible as it acts like a sponge. Get rid of the padding and rent a special vacuum to extract water from the carpet. If your flood was from salt water, remove and replace the carpet. You will never get the salt out. Insist the insurance company pay for new carpet or better yet, tile the floors.
After having our house flooded by only four inches of water, I was amazed at how much damage was inflicted. We have had to remove the carpets; the bottom of the kitchen cupboards are coming apart; most of the furniture is moldy, warped and needs replacing. Even the ceiling fan blades were affected by the moisture, as they are now sagging and warped.
Most electronic devices do not like to be in a very high humidity, salt environment. The corrosion from the saltwater will cause the electronics to stop working. Check out all TV’s computers, radios, fax and phone machines before settling with the insurance company. Almost all of ours were damaged by the corrosion of the humid air.
If you're concerned about any unsafe electrical conditions in your house, call a licensed electrician. Standing in water or on a damp floor near an electrical outlet can result in a dangerous shock. If you have water in the house, turn off the main breaker at the electrical box. Check appliances for water damage and make sure cords aren't wet before you plug them in. If you plug in an appliance and the circuit breaker trips, a fuse blows or you smell a burning odor, unplug the appliance and have it checked by a qualified repairperson. If salt water gets as high as the outlets, you will need to replace the outlets and possibly the wires as well. Salt water eats everything metal that it contacts.
More next week…