When noted Montauk fisherman Jeff Bline said while at sea, “There are no atheists in a storm,” he probably could have added, "and while on land you better have good homeowners insurance."
After a Nor’easter back in 2010 that caused, according to county officials, around $30 million-plus damage, I wrote a few articles. Back then LIPA and Con Edison officials actually said, "the damages to power lines from this last wind storm, with wind gust hitting over 70 miles per hour, actually caused more damage to power lines than Hurricane Gloria did in 1985."
With misfortune comes opportunity as many homeowners used insurer’s money to repair damage to their homes, fences and trees. In fact Barlett Tree Company, caring for the nation’s trees since 1907, first came out to the East End to assist in the devastation that blanketed the East Coast up to New England after the Great Hurricane of 1938. Last August after Hurricane Irene, on every block you could hear power saws, and see sections of once mighty trees freshly cut into big thick quarters. An official at one of the oldest home owners insurance firms in East Hampton noted that a lot of the tree damage is actually done by trees that needed to be serviced beforehand.
With many second homeowners being either absent or not focused on contracting out to get the preventive work done, the storms take care of the business in an unsafe, unorganized way. The safety risk, explained to me, goes beyond home damage but to those living in the home. I was advised to have an expert check the trees around your home on a regular basis as well as ones that can land on neighbors' homes. I once lived on an Oak Lane in an old 1668 founded village, with huge oak trees in every yard and I saw what happens to a children’s bedroom first hand; that day I had all my oaks checked with one being taken down by my den room where the kids always watched TV.
After Irene I visited the Home Depot in Patchogue and watched as literally over 20 chain saws both gas and electric get sold while I ask the salesperson about sales. They ranged from $75 to one over $800. After Irene, the fence companies on the East End were impossible to talk to with me getting the, “too busy, the storm, call back next week for information.”
At Home Depot the salesman said they sold a lot of electric water pumps to get water out of basements due to the high tides that accompanied the wind storm after Irene. Post-Irene I did not check umbrella sales on the East End, but no doubt many where destroyed by the winds as were so many trees.
A friend of mine, a homeowners insurance agent in the East Hampton said he was out almost 16 hours after Irene, inspecting yards, damaged roofs, one windmill, and damage to garages. It was not his first storm and I think he has a helpful perspective on selling the right coverage.
In Sag Harbor, down at one of the marinas right in the village, a sailboat literally blew off it stands and was lying on its side last year. There were the usual unfortunately parked cars, parked in the wrong place at the wrong time now serving as a fallen tree rest.
Post-storm, hardware stores in East Hampton and Bridgehampton seemed busy with sales of duct tape, mops, and rakes, apparent as I talked to a worker at the register. The truth is hardware stores are busy from late winter to just before the summer season every weekend as second home owners come out and get the homes ready for summer rentals or vacations. In fact one couple from Springs said they came out to experience a spring storm because they love weather and next thing they knew they were starting a month sooner to whip the house into shape.
The nightmare of no electricity at night during a violent Nor’easter storm has so many angles. Food in the ice box being ruined, water pumps in the yard not working, meaning no running water, oftentimes the outage causes fuses to blow or even the whole pump. Swiming pool damage also happens (pool companies make a few dollars there). Then there is, of course, the toilets having but one flush.
The chill of this time of year is never that nice, adding to the acute darkness of a power outage. These days with power outages, there is no way other than the car jack to charge your laptops and cellphones. It's not funny how many people have to buy certain new appliances after a power outage. Of course this year, with money a bit tighter, not too many people are running out to buy anything, but today at Lowe's gas generators were selling.
The saddest thing I saw last year after Irene was an elderly woman putting up a poster for her cat, still missing since the storm, on that one can only hope for the best.