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Weekend showers mean busy times for many local businesses

By ALLISON MILES
May 18, 2010 at 12:18 a.m.
Updated May 19, 2010 at 12:19 a.m.

The Athena Restaurant is temporarily closed due to water damage from Saturday's thunderstorm. John Gordon, the owner, said water damaged the ceiling and needs to be corrected before they can reopen.

What to do:

Call your local insurance agent. The agent can discuss your options, deductibles and whether the damage warrants filing a claim.

Take pictures of the damage.

Make a list of lost or damaged items

Take precautions to avoid further damage. Place a tarp on roof leaks, get the car out of the water and the like.

Sources: John Burgman, independent agent with Victoria Insurance Group and FloodSmart.govFLOOD INSURANCE

Homes can flood, regardless of whether they sit in the flood plain, said John Burgman, an independent agent with Victoria Insurance Group. In fact, 25 percent of property claims are paid out in "preferred risk" areas.

It's better to be safe than sorry.

A person who purchases the maximum amount of insurance, which is $250,000 for the house and $100,000 for its contents, and will likely only pay about $355 per year, he said.

"It's not like it's real expensive," Burgman said.

Flood insurance isn't included on homeowners policies, although it's a common misconception, said Russell Janecka, who owns Janecka Insurance Agency.

"The only place to get that is through the federal program," he said.

Also, except for new homeowners who purchase a house in the flood plain, there's a 30-day waiting period for people to obtain coverage, Janecka said.

"You cannot call and ask for a policy when there's already a storm in the Gulf," he said. "The time to get ready for storm season is now."

REPORT DAMAGE

Want to report damage to the Office of Emergency Management? E-mail oem@victoriatx.org or call 361-485-3362.

Things were quiet during lunch hour Tuesday at Athena Mediterranean Seafood and Steakhouse.

In fact no one was there and the outdoor sign explained why: "Sorry, closed. Storm damage. Open soon."

Heavy rains soaked the Crossroads through the weekend, flooding streets, cars and homes. And the rain's aftermath has kept local businesses busy.

Starting Saturday, Hurricane Carpet Cleaners' staff has basically worked 24 hours a day, said Rudy Ramirez, who owns the company. The crew visits about 10 houses and between three and four businesses daily, he said, but expects traffic to slow toward the week's end.

Everyone's busy right now, Ramirez said.

"The fact is, the economy gets better throughout disasters," he explained. "They're working more hours, getting more money to go to restaurants and pay for bills."

Not all of Ramirez's business comes from people whose homes saw damage. Rain means mud, and mud means dirty carpets. Some people are just getting it cleaned.

Initial damage estimates reported by city and county personnel Saturday still seem fairly accurate, Emergency Management Coordinator Jeb Lacey said.

According to those reports, between 150 and 170 homes and about 12 businesses were affected by the downpour. Other issues, such as railroad bridges and road damage also came into play.

The Office of Emergency Management is still accepting calls and e-mails reporting damage, Lacey said, explaining the data helps plan for future emergencies.

The insurance world had been calm in terms of claims for months, said Russell Janecka, who owns the Janecka Insurance Agency. Locally, claims are on the rise, however.

Some came from neighborhoods where the streets flooded long enough to bring damage, he said, while others came because of fallen trees, wind damage or speeding drivers whose wakes sent water into homes.

On the bright side, he said, local farmers and ranchers needed the rain. They just might not have wanted it all at once.

"It seems like Victoria just can't get a nice rain shower without hail, wind or lightning," Janecka said.

John Burgman, an independent agent with Victoria Insurance Group, said that, although he's seen some property claims, most of the claims he's dealt with pertain to automobiles.

Regardless, the area was actually pretty lucky the rains came Saturday, and not when people were driving to work or school.

"People would have headed out and gotten hung up on roads," he said. "It's not any fun getting water in the house or car, but it's worse on a weekday."

Avis Rent-A-Car found itself out of rentals Tuesday, said BiBi Moreno, a rental agent for the company. Avis has fielded calls for days from people and businesses.

"We have a waiting list right now," she said, adding that the staff is working for a quick turnaround. "As fast as they're coming in, we're putting them in cars."

Local rental sites often refer customers to one another when necessary, she said, and they're all working together now.

As for Athena? The restaurant only sustained water damage to its roof and ceiling, owner John Gordon said. Outside of that, it's fine.

The company hopes to make quick repairs and reopen before the weekend hits.

"We're hoping we'll have it corrected in a couple days," Gordon said. "But I guess you never know."

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