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Check, double check your insurance policies before a storm hits

By ALLISON MILES
May 25, 2011 at 12:25 a.m.

Joe and Gayle Mireles, of Port Lavaca, rode out Hurricane Claudette in 2003 and vividly remember the strong winds, rain and the sound of their office-building roof being pulled apart from the structure. Mireles walked in during the storm only to look up and see the sky in the former Dairy Queen business on Main Street.

How to prepare yourself for a storm Document your belongings.

A digital camera or video camera can make the documentation process a quick one.

Go through the house and get shots of the TVs, furniture, insides of drawers and more. Otherwise, when disaster strikes and you're in a state of shock, you're likely to forget much of what is missing.

Source: Mark Hanna, manager of public relations and membership for the Insurance Council of Texas.

For more information on the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, or to find out how to purchase coverage, visit www.twia.org or call 512-899-4900.

Gayle Mireles will never forget the day Hurricane Claudette blasted through the Crossroads.

Her husband's business lost its roof the same day.

Mireles went into work at Port Lavaca's Mireles Insurance on July 15, 2003, despite the storm raging in the Gulf. As the weather worsened, however, they decided to abandon ship.

"Our home is just a few blocks from the office, so that's where I went," she said. "Later on, my husband looked out the window and saw things from the office flying through our yard. Papers, parts of the sign, things like that."

The scene back at the office was a shock, she said. The roofless building was filled with damp computers, soggy floors, ruined papers and more.

"It was scary," she said. "Really scary. But we were covered, so that was good."

Not everybody is so lucky.

As hurricane season makes its quick approach, it's important for people to review their insurance policy and make any necessary changes.

People along the coast should all have three different insurance policies - homeowners, wind storm and flood insurance, said Mark Hanna, manager of public relations and membership for the Insurance Council of Texas.

A basic homeowner policy protects against burglary, theft, fire and the like, he said.

A wind storm policy also helps residents close to the water's edge. Although Victoria has been spared in recent years, Hanna said. Hurricane Claudette, a relatively mild storm, brought 90-mph winds.

"Anybody in the way of that saw trees, limbs breaking and blowing by, window damage and other things," he said. "I think that caused several millions of dollars of damage in the Victoria area."

Flood insurance is a third important type of coverage near the coast, Hanna said, but it isn't included in homeowner policies.

Hanna advised people to begin thinking early about whether they need to purchase additional coverage.

Flood insurance takes 30 days to take effect, and wind storm insurance, though effective immediately when purchased, cannot be bought once a named storm has entered the Gulf.

Also remember auto insurance, Hanna said. The law requires people to have liability insurance, he said, but not "other than collision" protection, which protects from hail, flooding and more.

"Just check and make sure that you have adequate coverage," he said. "It's not going to take that much more of a premium."

Flood and windstorm coverage aren't necessary for those in rental properties, Hanna added, but renter's insurance is always a good idea. Such insurance covers any items inside the home or apartment that might be damaged during such an event.

As for the Mireles family, although Hurricane Claudette was a stressful experience, they all made do.

They set up shop inside their home to conduct business and, while their building was being remodeled, worked out of portable buildings.

"We were back in the office just before the beginning of the year and we're still there today," she said. "But it was a little crazy for a while."

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