If I knew then what I know now: Lessons learned from hurricanes Laura and Delta

Hurricane Season 2022: Staying Strong
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 10:34 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Many people would have done things differently after hurricanes Laura and Delta – if they knew then what they know now.

We asked our viewers on Facebook what they learned from the 2020 storms, and we received insight about preparing for hurricane season and dealing with insurance, contractors and more.

D’ellen Myers said while everyone else is calling their insurance companies, “I’d go right to the Louisiana builders association and I’d get them to help me find a contractor immediately.”

After going through four contractors, Myers said, “He came back with a hammer and forgot his nails. Two months later he’d come back with the nails and forget the hammer. I had $70,000 sitting in the bank from the insurance companies, but I couldn’t get anybody to spend it! Now, I’m doing it myself.”

Heather Guillory says she would skip the public adjuster, which cost her $35,000.

“I would invoke the appraisal clause in all of our insurance policies and go straight to appraisal. I wouldn’t even call a public adjuster next time because I can do exactly what he did,” Guillory said.

Guillory said she came to that conclusion by reading her insurance policy.

“We all have that right to go to appraisal if we don’t feel like we’re being treated fairly. We shouldn’t have to go through one, two, four, 17 adjusters to be able to get what’s owed to us,” she said.

Debra Simmons expressed the sentiments of quite a few people.

“If you have a lot of damage, get a lawyer. Because you’re going to fight the insurance, and when you get done there you’re going to fight the mortgage. Could take you years,” Simmons said.

And more than 100 others shared their ideas, from placing important documents in a binder to immediately cancelling your electric service if your home is destroyed, to avoid bills for power you didn’t use.

Jonathan Fontenot with the SWLA Law Center and Angela Guth with the Better Business Bureau are in a unique position to identify storm survivors most common complaints and regrets.

“Do not pay any money up front for any work performed until the job is complete,” Guth said. “You should always verify their license, verify their insurance and of course you always want to make sure that they are a reputable company and a legitimate business before hiring them.”

If a contractor insists he needs money for materials, Fontenot said, “Go buy the materials and have them delivered to your house, otherwise they may have the materials delivered to their last job.”

He said avoid hiring an out-of-state contractor.

“If you can, hire a Louisiana corporation or company. Because if you get a Texas contractor, even if you sue them here you have to chase them down in Texas, hire a second law firm in texas to chase them, if they have any assets,” Fontenot said.

And he emphasized - document everything, even before the storm hits.

“Be aware of what your deductible is, it may be a high percentage. Get contact information from your agent, before the storm including email and fax so you can prove that you requested some reimbursement from them. You don’t want to go to a law firm and say, ‘I called them and I called them.’ No. You want to be able to, ‘here’s the email, here’s the text and here’s the date on it,’” he said.

Fontenot and Guth emphasized that a carefully read, written contract spelling out the details is essential, and don’t pay in cash.

“You don’t go to a restaurant and say, ‘here’s a bunch of money, I hope you feed me. But you do that with a contractor. ‘Here’s $10,000, I hope you do this,’ and they leave. You go to a law firm, you have no proof you paid them, you got no contract, you’ve got no idea who they are, who the proper party is to sue.”

And it’s important to do your own research, be thorough and when needed consult an expert to avoid learning things the hard way.

Below are some more of the responses we received on Facebook.

When mitigating damage Don’t try to save 1/2 your ceiling because you don’t think insurance will pay for for all the removal … you will never match a textured ceiling so take it all out. Don’t try to salvage your cabinetry the doors will never be the same even with new paint, they will warp from the humidity inside your home. Shop for supplies in city where you evacuated or are staying especially temp fencing because all fences will blow down and you will need to corral your pets -Marilyn Milliken Boudreaux

I would’ve not given insurance the benefit of the doubt, as well as my faith and optimism. Instead I’d have tried to sue them much faster than I did. -Lindsey Janies

Get more insurance coverage!!! Review your policy with your agent!!! -Shawn Campbell Chamblee

Learn how your insurance policy works -Ann Goodaker Farque

Double check your homeowners policy BEFORE hurricane season... annually!! Ask about any exclusions or exceptions to your policy. Apparently, our policy didn’t cover our entire roof because of the age of it. -Jennifer Pommier Canter

Check your insurance deductible. Don’t trust your insurance company’s website portal to upload photos and documents. Make sure you keep documentation of the dates you send everything to your insurer. Take pictures or video of everything in your home and outside of your home, including your ceilings and walls and bricks to show there is no damage before the storm. -Rachel Pratt Koonce

USAA homeowners policy was worth every penny in cost. Opted for flat rate deductible at $1000; it makes the policy more expensive monthly but was invaluable when filing. Be prepared to oversee both your contractor and every subcontractor. Actively monitor every payment from insurance company to contractor...you won’t regret this. Have a good lawyer ready when contractors threaten to file contractor’s lein against your property when payments take time. Stay on top of inspections. -Donnis McWilliams

Never allow one sibling to put the insurance in his name alone. That is a huge legal problem in Louisiana. Only two of us live in the home. One of the siblings that does not live in the home took out the insurance policy. -Susan G Matthews

Got flood insurance -Marsha Cummings

Keep a very detailed log of every single time you speak with, try to contact, or miss a call from insurance - time, date, and what was said. im not sure about local private adjusters; but if I could go back in time, I would go straight to the attorney and skip the PA that is currently charging me for “courtesy texts” and “courtesy emails” in addition to all other “billable hours”. -Megan Riley Benham

Have a binder prepared with all info regarding insurance and mortgage in it. I have one now just for hurricanes. If it doesn’t get used one year, I change the season date for the next. It’s made a world of difference to keep things in one spot. -Cora Manuel

If the house is more than 20 years old get the rider that pays for building code compliance. Theresa, in my house the original roof decking was 1″x4″ boards instead of plywood. Since all boards shrink over time we had 4′x8′ decking laid atop the narrower boards. -Andrew Casanave

I would have video my house before including under the house, the attic, and outside areas. Would have chosen a better insurance company than All-State. They Didn’t cover a third of damages of the house we have been in less than 5 years. Had to buy a r.v. to live in. Still in it . If I had to do again after the first adjuster came and was no help I would have gotten a good lawyer that day. -Bridget Brown

Best advice I got was to video everything in every room. Open every drawer and cabinet. I have learned if the storm will eventually go north I better go west. My family got it way worse in Monroe where I sought safe haven. -Amy Cargel Veuleman

Cut down the huge oak tree that was hanging over the house!! -Joyce Moriarty Leveque

I would have left town 2 days before Laura hit. -Tom Nixon

I would not have left my home! I would have stayed as we Did for every other Hurricane -Renee E. Amos

Cover vehicles and stay again . Wish we can find affordable insurance for our older home. Feme was a joke for us they didn’t help they want us to pay them -Carolina Fabacher

I will never stay again I stayed at the hotel I worked at with people who couldn’t leave just like us and was charged to stay there and was also made to work with no electricity or water was told to charge ppl if they wanted to stay 99 a night for a room with no ac no water no phone and water damage the whole side of the building was blown off Theresa Schmidt KPLC I have tons of pics and video from that night and some stories to tell -Sarah Laird

I learned to not be a dummy and LEAVE next time. Was a horroblw storm laura was. -Jessi Bell

I got a solar powered phone charger afterwards. Great investment. Also I have not overstocked my fridge or freezer since. When hurricane season begins I stop buying freezer food and start cooking up what I have. I start buying canned chicken and the things I did actually ate during the aftermath. -Julie Cole

Next time we evacuate I’m taking the food from my refrigerator and freezer with me. There are just two of us and I don’t have a lot in the freezer. We have a great place to go and we’ll end up buying groceries so why not take them with us! Plus if I clean out the appliances they might not be ruined when we get home. -Pamela Eldridge Robertson

With hindsight, we never were clear that one or two sides of the house would take the huge beating..I ask that the weather guys tell us 24 hours out which sides to really work at clearing landscaping and board up. We got incredibly lucky—lost 3 storm windows on our East side—but the 115 year old glass held, and we stayed dry. And if you evacuate—clean out your frig—unplug, open all the doors and clean well. We spent the first 3 days cleaning out all our friends refrigerators..our lovely neighbors did theirs 2 days before Laura hit—it was a gift! Buy 2-3 new trash cans and a kiddie pool. Fill the cans with water so you can at least clean up and even take a bath in the kiddie pool. Temp fencing is a must. Couple cans of fix a flat. -Sarah Nicholson Wilson

After Rita I had no electricity for two weeks. The day before Laura I bought s generator at Stines. The day after the storm came back home..turned on the gas generator and had air-conditioning for the week it took for the Entergy electricity to be repaired. Buying the generator was the big improvement. -Brian Fontenot

To add storm shutters and a generator. Storm water in bathtub. We did all of the above. -Jo Schexneider

Keep less in the fridge & freezers! The insurance company not only expected an itemized list, and price, of what was in them , But photos as well! -Marlene Mullenix

Tie down my roof or lose it again at 4 in the morning -Ashley Orillion

We got a generator in January before the storm in August. A wonderful friend called me and told me “You know you have to put oil in it and change the filters.” Well, I didn’t know that! She then had her son and his wife get extra supplies from Texas so we could run the generator for over fourteen days, with my husband and son changing the filter and the oil and adding oil. Now we keep extra oil and filters on hand. Somehow I didn’t get the memo about how generators run. -Carol LeBeau

Even if you have to sleep in your vehicle for one night....LEAVE! -Darloonie Blue

Be careful who you let represent ypu. Read everybody of everything you sign from “so called people who are there to help” and never agree to pay anyone a percentage of anything without a memorandum of understanding of some sort. -Mandy Crookshank Bellow

I would hire a public adjuster immediately or an attorney. -Karen Guillory Drewett

Never hire a “friend” as a contractor... Contractor fraud in progress... Throw a tarp over your house or something even if it looks ridiculous... Insurance will reserve their right to pay anything if you don’t protect your property. Buy an RV. Live on the property while repairs are being made -Jasmine Baker Harris

Make sure all your contractors are licensed and bonded in case something is done incorrectly. Get more insurance coverage than what you think you’ll need. Don’t rely on family friends that are contractors to help you. Don’t give your insurance estimate to your contractors. Finally, apartment complexes are some of the most dishonest and corrupt entities. Be ready for theft if you’re unable to immediately return. -Jamie Schraven Tyler

One thing those 2 Hurricanes taught me, we have a 5th wheel camper, we learned you fill ALL tanks full of water and lower the front end to the ground! We try to tell everyone. A travel travel fill tanks and lower the Jack’s on 1 side to the ground. Hope this helps someone else. -Donna Veillon Stewart

Gut it before the insurance company sees it & says you can only cut 12″ from top of wall and 12″ from bottom! You can only cut 12″ out of the ceiling! TRY to get a written quote from a contractor (if there are any) before you accept the low payment the insurance gives you! Get a lawyer! -Diane Trim

I will move before, I can not clean up the mess again. -Sandra Owens Nourrcier

I would have moved permanently -Noni Ewing

I think I might would have considered moving. -John Black

I learned to move away from the gulf coast !!! -Brian Crämer

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