Hit with a triple whammy

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Barb Sweet
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Burst pipes, ice damming and rain/melting floods taxing property owners

This winter, events such as the blizzard, icy windchills and blackouts, have pounded homeowners and commercial building operators with a triple whammy, says a local property restoration company.

“It’s huge. We’re putting in 14- to 16-hour days trying to get people taken care of,” said Craig Langille, owner of Winmar.

The calamity of the past 10 days has seen incidents of frozen and burst pipes, ice damming on roofs, and flooding from heavy rain, warmer temperatures and sudden melts.

“There’s been extensive damage, commercial and residential,” said Langille, who has been in the contracting and restoration business for about 30 years, but opened the Winmar franchise here about five years ago.

Lengthy blackouts not seen in years, coupled with winds so bitterly cold they blast through any crack or opening in a home to freeze pipes, have wreaked havoc in metro and rural areas.

He said staff have put aside their own winter weather troubles to tackle the 100 or so jobs that have come in during a short period of time.

“Nobody has a fighting chance,” he said, adding those who have propane and wood stoves could only do so much to combat the extreme windchill.

The jobs have taken the company and its roster of equipment in and out of metro, to locations such as Carbonear, Shearstown, Coley’s Point and Harbour Grace. Some customers may wait weeks or months for repairs to be completed.

“We’re trying to get to everyone as fast as we can,” Langille said.

“Nobody can stop Mother Nature if Mother Nature wants to freeze our houses and shut off the power and break any pipe out there.”

Some people whose houses had burst pipes were hit again with flooding damage from ice dams on their roofs. In extreme cases, houses may have to be gutted.

Roofs and decks have also collapsed, Langille said.

It’s not just older houses that have been damaged either, Langille said, adding some claims involve newer ones. The company uses equipment to dry out damaged homes and then tackles the repairs.

Langille said people can ward off power outages by purchasing a generator that plugs directly into their electric panel — but a comprehensive system could cost $10,000. Otherwise people are just doing what they can and are in pretty good spirits, he said.

“Newfoundlanders are tougher. We are well aware of how cold Newfoundland weather can get,” he said, noting many people have smaller generators to get them through.

He cautioned people who have plumbing running through their attics to consider rerouting those pipes when they can.

He is in favour of upgrades to the provincial electrical infrastructure to offset the growth in demand on the grid through development.

Amanda Dean, vice-president Atlantic of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said it’s typical of January and February to have shocking storms and insurance claims.

But it’s too early to tell what the impact of last week’s weather was on insurance stats.

“One particular event is not going to impact insurance broadly. It’s more an accumulative thing,” she said of rates.

There have been many inquiries about food spoilage and Dean said people may want to question the merit of filing a small claim against any discounts they may have for being claim-free as well as what their deductible is.

She noted people can make inquiries about their policies and what they cover to insurance companies’ consumer information lines, by contacting their agent or by checking their paperwork.

Dean also pointed out the insurance market in this province is competitive, with 42 home insurance companies looking for people’s business, so it’s best to call around for the right coverage and rates.

The industry and homeowners do know, however, there are more hurricanes and extreme weather in recent years, resulting in more risk and claims related to flooding.

“Water is the new fire, as we say in the industry,” Dean said.

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Organizations: Insurance Bureau of Canada

Geographic location: Carbonear, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Thomas
    January 14, 2014 - 10:00

    How do we get protection from flooding? Nobody covers it! I am shocked that if I go home today and my basement is underwater, I am on my own. Yet, I have comprehensive insurance? How is this fair?

    • Jeff
      January 14, 2014 - 12:33

      Oh it's fair. You give the insurance company your money and, in exchange, it takes it.