Sunday, April 11, 1999

Insurance adjusters bring checks, reassuring words

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mike and Mary Meno, right, are counting their blessings with claims adjuster Charles Raque, left.
(Saed Hindash photos)
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        Huddled on a mattress in their second-floor bedroom, Mary and Michael Meno didn't know their roof was gone until they felt the rain.

        The tornado sliced it clean off, down to the wallpaper borders of their bedrooms, and rammed pieces of the broken roof through the sitting room of Athula Ekanayake's house across the street.

        When dawn sprayed light on the devastation of the Pemmican Run subdivision near Harper's Point, the Menos didn't know whether they should move their salvageable furniture or wait for an insurance adjuster. They weren't exactly sure how much of the damage would be covered or whether they should go ahead with plans to rent a neighbor's house for a few months during the repairs.

        By Saturday afternoon, most of their questions had been answered. Insurance claims agent Charles Raque of the Cincinnati-based Ohio Casualty Group walked through their home, measured broken fences and cracked drywall and gave the Menos some needed assurance.

        “It's not going to be a cut-and-dry situation. It'll take a while,” Mr. Raque said, surveying the upturned trees and the roofless structure. “But the house will look nice when we're done.”

        On the heels of rescue workers were insurance adjusters. Dozens of claims representatives stepped over tree limbs and around piles of debris Friday and Saturday to assess the damage to homes and businesses.

        At the Menos' house, Mr. Raque explained that builders would have to strip the second floor down to the frame. Without a roof, the walls weren't square anymore.

        Builders worked Saturday to fashion a makeshift roof from a huge tarp that flapped in the afternoon winds like an oversizekite.

        A special endorsement on the Menos' insurance policy may mean they'll get money to replace the half dozen trees snapped into pieces. Most policies don't include coverage for trees or landscaping.

        While some who found themselves homeless Friday morning are still scrambling for living accommodations, the Menos are lucky. A neighbor who recently moved offered to let the couple and their 19-year-old son, Ryan, rent a home five doors down for the next couple of months. Insurance will cover the rent and additional living expenses.

        Mr. Raque wrote an advance check for $2,500 to help the Menos start paying for the clean-up.

        Despite $80,000 to $100,000 in damage, Mrs. Meno feels lucky. Her husband, son and two dogs are safe.

Roger Blackburn, left, a claims adjuster, assesses damage to The Club at Harper's Point Saturday with owner and operator Steve Contardi.
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        “It was divine intervention in this neighborhood,” she said, her voice wobbly and her eyes tearing up. “I'm living in chaos, but it worked out beautifully in this neighborhood.”

        Just a few blocks away, Steve Contardi, owner and operator of The Club at Harper's Point, echoed those sentiments.

        Despite insulation torn from the club's walls, pieces of the roof ripped apart, and four rows of lights more than 30 feet long crashed to the ground, Mr. Contardi said he was fortunate.

        “The good news is that it happened at 5 o'clock in the morning, and not 5 o'clock in the evening when it would be full of kids,” he said. “Nobody was hurt, and this can all be fixed.”

        Employees and friends spent Friday and Saturday cutting up dozens of pine trees felled by the strong winds and cleaning up glass, insulation and debris.

        Roger Blackburn, a claims representative with Ohio Casualty Group, took pictures of the damage and wrote an overview in his notebook. He'll be back early in the week to get the specifics.

        Mr. Blackburn has seen storm damage before. But it doesn't get easier with repetition. His stomach is upset. His head aches. He is tense and nervous.

        Then at some point, everything dulls a bit and he can work.

        “I enjoy my job,” Mr. Blackburn said. “If I didn't, I wouldn't have done it for 20 years. But still there are times when it's hard.”

        Generally, most homeowner's insurance policies cover structural damage, lost wages, additional living expenses and contents of a house.

        Policies generally do not cover trees, shrubs and landscaping. Nor can policyholders receive reimbursement for spoiled food because of electrical outage unless the home was directly damaged.

        Most of the major insurance companies have established toll-free numbers specifically for storm victims. State Farm clients can call 1-800-SFCLAIM; Allstate clients can call 1-800-54-STORM.

        Homeowners should compile a list of items damaged in the storm and include as much information as possible, such as approximate date of purchase, location, type and style.



Pinpointing the damage in the Tristate
Homeowners sort out emotions, scattered memories
Where to donate, where to get help
Orphaned dog has broken pelvis, heart
Devoted pair died together
'When God calls, we must go'
Sirens not designed to penetrate buildings
Did you hear the sirens?
New home, owners spared
Utility crews, municipal workers out in force
Volunteers offer goods, hands, time
Mother Nature's worst brings out the best in human nature
Church members shed tears, give thanks
Hoosiers pitch in to help neighbors
- Insurance adjusters bring checks, reassuring words
Warren County took blow, too
One year later, Alabama tornado victims still rebuilding
Coping with the storm
Coping with the storm: Returning to your home