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Posted: January 14, 2014 10:30 p.m.

Residents hit hard by frozen pipes

Hundreds of Newton County residents and dozens of businesses and organizations suffered damage from broken pipes and flooding last week, with the state’s insurance commissioner estimating Georgians had $75 million worth of insured losses as a result of the state’s arctic weather.

Local insurance agents said it was too early to estimate total damage in Newton County but some homes were so badly flooded and damaged residents had to move out.

Dan Babb, a State Farm insurance agent, said his office has received calls all week long and is still receiving a few this week, but je said none of the claims has been closed, so final costs are unknown.

He said his office saw a handful of cases where a house was so badly damaged the family had to move out, but if a lot of water damaged occurred it can take time until the floors dries out enough where people can tell if the floor is rotted.

"With companies like ServPro and Service Masters so inundated with calls, there were houses that didn’t get seen immediately," Babb said.

Scott Knight with Knight and Tabb Insurance Agency said his office only had two actual claims and both were for flooding that affected two to three rooms in homes and resulted in under $10,000 of damage. Both of the claims his office saw were for overhead pipes, like those in unheated attics, bursting. Because most homeowners policies have a $1,000 deductible, some homeowners with minor damage were better off paying for repairs themselves, Knight said. In some cases, insurance companies may put a surcharge on premium payments for homeowners who have large claims, but won’t typically hold a claim against a homeowner when it comes time to renew a policy unless the claim was for something where the homeowner was negligent.

Knight said homeowners should always call their agents if possible to discuss the situation and options before filing any insurance claim.

Last week, the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority had calls to turn off water for about 150 customers, while Covington received 71 requests.

The city and county fire departments each handled dozens of additional calls.

While residents and some organizations were hit hard, local governments were relatively unscathed.

Water authority Executive Director Mike Hopkins said his agency didn’t have any damaged infrastructure and its only costs were overtime payments of $801.

Covington Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said Covington paid less than $1,000 in overtime, too, and only had significant damage to Covington Fire Station #2 on Alcovy Road, which cost around $1,000 to $1,500 to clean up and repair.

Oxford only had a couple of vacant homes spring leaks, City Manager Bob Schwartz said, while Porterdale had six to eight residents have pipes burst, City Manager Bob Thomson said, with the only costs the little bit of money the city spent to insulate pipes in the Historic Gym.

Newton County officials did not immediately respond Tuesday to emails seeking information.

Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said damage around the state was more extensive in some northern counties and said the total value of losses could still climb in the coming days. Hudgens said Georgians can call his office’s Consumer Services Division at 404-656-2070, or 1-800-656-2298 for those outside the Metro area, if they have questions about a claim or are having difficulty reaching their insurance company.

 

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