In typical daily life, about 93% of all water damage is considered preventable. Water damage from hurricanes? That’s a bit trickier. During the past five years, claims related to wind and hail damage on a national basis accounted for almost 40 percent of all insured losses, averaging approximately $15 billion annually; and growing each year.
While many hurricane and flood-prone areas are investing in storm-proof construction (e.g. for hotels, casinos, resorts), most regular business and homeowners will see significant storm damage when the wind and rain passes. Often, residents of the affected area feel frustrated that utilities and general clean-up seem to take an eternity. Aid and clean-up workers insist that their jobs are misunderstood. So, what does it actually take to clean up a hurricane? Here are a few insights.
Electricity isn’t as simple as a switch.
One of the biggest concerns of residents post-storm is when the lost electricity will be restored. After all, the majority of our daily appliances, news sources, and entertainment need electricity. Some people don’t even have heat or running water without it.
It’s easy to get frustrated when you see a utility truck drive right down your street without fixing the broken pole on the side of the road. Can’t they see the street needs their help, neighbors ask?
In actuality, residential neighborhoods are often the last to get electricity back. Electrical workers need to get the main sources cleaned up and safe to use, then the major lines on main roads, and THEN the smaller lines off of those main lines that feed energy to back roads. Don’t get frustrated right away if it seems like electrical workers are ignoring your area. They might need to connect some dots to get energy to your neighborhood in the first place.
Workers are at risk for injury, too.
The mess left after a storm can bring toxins, downed power lines, and other dangerous debris right to your door.
One of the primary concerns for relief workers is to keep everyone safe — including those in the clean-up effort. The mess was so bad in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey that concerns were reported about the death toll for workers helping to clean up being greater than the death toll from the storm itself.
The result? Safe plans are implemented before clean-up begins to minimize risk. In some cases, flooded areas need to be left alone for days or weeks before they’re considered safe to address.
Displaced residents are a pressing issue.
While cleaning up battered homes, businesses, and apartment buildings is a priority, there is a greater one post-storm: those who have totally lost their homes.
In Panama City in particular, some apartment residents have been allowed to return to their homes and begin cleaning up the mess left by the storm. Others have been turned away from their decimated buildings, not even allowed to search the wreckage for belongings.
Although it’s unfortunate that considerable damage has been done to so many homes, the focus is clearly going to be on finding temporary shelter for those who have absolutely no home to return to.
There are so many other reasons relief effort could take a while, including the need to hire more contractors or shortages of materials like lumber.
The bottom line is that the public could stand to be more patient after disasters. Yelling and complaining about the slow process doesn’t help much. Volunteering, donating, and coordinating relief efforts DOES help.