In what’s become an unfortunately frequent occurrence, Houston was devastated by floods again as Tropical Storm Imelda wreaked havoc this week, dumping 36 inches of rain overnight in some places. If you were affected by the flood, here’s what you need to know.
Find Towed Cars
Hundreds of car were abandoned on city streets as the water rose and drivers headed for high ground. If yours was among them and was towed away, visit FindMyTowedCar.com and input your license plate number, VIN, or other identifying information. There is sometimes a delay between the car being towed and information being available in the database, so if nothing comes up in your search, wait a few hours and try again.
Before you start ripping out carpet and getting rid of ruined furniture, take tons of pictures of the damage to ease your insurance claim process. (Which you’ll want to start ASAP. If you haven’t called your insurance company yet, what are you waiting for?) Photograph all areas of the house, with marks on the wall to show the level the floodwater reached, as well as each ruined piece of furniture that you’ll want to claim.
Wear a mask, rain boots or hip waders, and cleaning gloves when handling water-damaged items, which may be contaminated with chemicals or sewage that tends to end up in flood water. Protect yourselves with long sleeves and long pants, even if that isn’t super comfortable in this weather. Be sure gas lines are shut off and the house is structurally sound before you start doing any demolition.
Don’t put off the unpleasant process of dealing with your flooded house, because it doesn’t take long for mold to start growing. As soon as it’s safe to return, take your pictures for insurance purposes and get wet drywall, flooding, and furniture out of the house right away. A few inches of water in the house is a major hassle to deal with in any scenario, but if you let wet carpet sit for a few weeks you’ll be dealing with a whole other level of mess and thousands of dollars more in mold remediation services. Items such as bedding that have been wet for less than 48 hours may be salvageable, but anything that’s been saturated longer than that needs to go.
File a Claim
Get started on your insurance claim right away so you can get paid and begin rebuilding sooner. Depending on your insurance company, they may want to send an adjuster out to view the damage to your property or car in person.
Many churches, neighborhood groups, and local businesses are offering assistance to those who were hurt by flooding. That assistance may come in the form of help ripping out soggy carpet, meals for those newly without a kitchen, overnight lodging, or donations of household items, but don’t be shy about taking people up on their offer of help. Go to HoustonRecovers.org if you need help being connected with a volunteer team or resources such as food, cleanup, basic supplies, or employment.
If you were one of the lucky ones who didn’t experience any serious damage during Imelda, you can find opportunities to volunteer or donate at HoustonRecovers.org, as well as any number of local charitable organizations and houses of worship.
Get Flood Insurance
Finally, if you were lucky enough to not flood in Harvey, Imelda, or any of the other devastating floods that have rocked Houston in the last few years and you STILL don’t have flood insurance, consider this your kick in the pants to go get some. Many homes that didn’t flood in Harvey flooded in Imelda, or in the floods that occurred in May of this year, so you’re not necessarily safe just because you haven’t flooded yet. If you live on the gulf coast, you should have flood insurance. It’s not expensive if you live outside designated flood plains, and you never know what the next big storm will bring or which area of town it will decide to hover over for days on end. Rather than taking your good fortune thus far as an indicator that your home is safe and you don’t need flood coverage, take it as a wake-up call and go sign up for a policy. Like, right now. Do it.
Our hearts go out to those affected by Imelda, and we hope you get your life back to normal quickly and with minimal expense. Above all, we’re glad you and your family are safe. Everything else, as painful as it is to lose it, is just “stuff.”