Canadian snowbirds with property in the southern states should heed the wake-up call left by Cindy, a tropical storm that flooded many parts of the Gulf of Mexico states from Texas to the Florida Panhandle.
It’s hurricane season, and if you haven’t fully secured your property, you’d best do it now—whether you have a condo, individual family home, mobile or manufactured home. You need to make sure you’re protected against what weather experts predict may be an above-average storm-activity summer and fall.
What do you need to do?
Make sure you understand your homeowner’s insurance policy. Do not assume that you’re covered for wind, storm or flood damage under that policy. Most homeowner policies require additional supplements for damages caused by wind or floods—and not everything that looks like rising water is considered a flood. If you’re unsure about your coverage, call your agent and make adjustments while there is still time. Once a storm is headed your way, it’s too late. Insurers will shut down applications for periods well in advance of storm activity.
Cultivate good neighbours
Similarly, I hope you turned off the water in your home when you left in the spring and moved outdoor furniture indoors, and trimmed bushes or branches that can become projectiles in a high wind. Such objects can become deadly in even a Category 1 hurricane (75 mph).
Also maintain contact with your trusty neighbour to keep an eye on your property and phone or email you with any reports of damage after the storm passes. Don’t count on being able to get to your own property right after the storm if there has been a lot of damage. Authorities will have seriously damaged areas locked down for days or even weeks if there is danger to life. There is not a lot you can do until they have cleared the area.
Don’t underestimate the power of storms
Don’t assume you’re without risk even if you live on the 20th floor of a newly built condo. The higher you go, the greater the wind speeds. And make sure you fully understand the condo bylaws—what’s your responsibility in case of damage and what are the association’s responsibilities?
I was once stuck in my own home, with my family and grandchildren, for nine days without power, running water, or air conditioning after a Category 2 hurricane—right in the heart of Fort Lauderdale. And it took supermarkets and gas stations a week to get back to operation.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are unpredictable. Don’t try to outguess them. Even the experts can’t do that. Low-pressure systems may take two weeks to grow into killers as they make their way across the Atlantic, or they might meander for days through the Gulf of Mexico. On the other hand, they can pop up in two days in the Bahamas or Cancun and strike the mainland before you even have time to put up shutters.
When June comes, be prepared. And stay that way until November, the official end of hurricane season.
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