A storm is coming

A cautionary tale of vulnerable situations .

The meeting of the tree and the house went disastrously.

Actually, the storm already came.  Pun not originally intended, but it did blow its wad early, and I’m left with the same feeling of imposition that I get with cum all over my face.  A little before 4am on Saturday, a crashing noise woke us from our sleep.  It was raining, the power was out, but it wasn’t loud enough to be a transformer blowing.  B walked the house and reported nothing amiss when he came back to bed.  Before I could get back to sleep, he decided to check to make sure nothing landed on our cars.  This time, he reported that the savings account I’d just set up to replace the roof in a few years has been negated by a pine tree on our roof.

Thankfully, B is a handy guy.  He started a pot of water on the propane grill outside to make coffee*, found where the water was running down the walls and put out towels.  He got on the roof to tarp over the tree as best as he could in the dark during the storm.  During this time, I took the mag-light and found the home owner’s insurance information.  Then, I finished the coffee and made our cups.  When he finished with the roof, he bee-lined for bed and I was left with two cups of coffee and no power.  Wide awake, I made the decision to drink his coffee too (in for a penny…), and propped the mag-light against the sofa to read.  I felt like a kid with a flashlight under the covers and read until the storm abated and the sun started coming up.

I opened the door to the smell of Christmas.  (Hey in the south it’s pine trees, not spruce!)  I took pictures of the tree at all the angles I could safely access.  In addition to the tree on the house, there was another pine tree that fell on the corner of our shed, and I could see half an oak still standing in the neighbor’s yard where all the trees’ roots remained.  I assumed the other half of the oak was in the tangled mess of limbs in our backyard.  The utility pole was also pulled down and all the cables were under said trees.  B woke up around this time (my phone said 7am), and I decided that is was late enough to call his insurance agent.  The number redirected to a call center, but we were able to open the claim.  Unfortunately, we had to wait for Emergency Response dept in order to find out what our next steps were.  The one thing the call center agent cautioned us about was being overcharged by a tree removal service.  The policy will only cover a “reasonable” cost to remove the tree, but she had no way of telling us what is reasonable for our area and situation.

The next call was the power company, since the outage maps online show only our street affected, not wide spread outages, I knew they would need to know where the source of the outage was.  As I waited on hold, an Entergy truck pulled up outside.  Thankful that I didn’t have to wait on hold any longer, I went outside to let the guy into our yard.  He logged the ticket and told us that a crew would be over when they can.  We puttered around for a bit, while we waited for the emergency agent to call us.  I got out the candles and we chatted with our neighbors as they woke and wandered outside to see who else was without power.  I talk B out of going to get a chainsaw (thankfully his is broken) and trying to begin the tree removal himself.  He was nervous that the rain would start back up, and I was nervous that we didn’t have the material to brace the tree properly and cutting it would cause more damage.  What if that damage negates responsibility by insurance to fix anything?  We pulled up the weather radar and it looked like the rest of the storm would actually go south of us.

The emergency insurance agent called to arrange a crew to professionally tarp the house and thought his recommended builder crew may have a good tree removal reco.  He couldn’t give us an idea of what was a “reasonable” cost for tree removal, though, since he works in a region of five states and “reasonable” varies by both location and circumstance.  B got off the phone with him and decided to make breakfast*.  About halfway though eating, the foreman for the tree service showed up to see what we are dealing with.  The foreman had already rented a crane for other jobs in the area, so he felt confident he could remove the tree that day.  B asked for a quote before he would approve any work and the guy got a lil cagey.  He left with assurances that he would come back with a quote.

Thankfully, B’s actual insurance agent called.  From the verbal description (and his agent was careful to cage the advice as “from my experience with other cases similar to yours”) a “reasonable” quote would be $2500-3000.  I don’t think the tree guy left a card, because B had to call the original contractor that the emergency agent recommended in order to get the process rolling on the quote.  The contractor gave B the number to the tree guy, and the quote for just the tree on the house was $3000.  It was another $1000 for the tree on the shed.  On top of that, since this service was a sub-contractor to the builder service, they told B that they would tack on an additional 20%!  Now we were up to almost $5000!

We knew we were getting swindled.  We were in a position that the tree needed to be removed soon, so that we could tarp the roof and avoid any further damage if it rained again.  We still weren’t sure if the storm would actually pass to the south and the skies were still gray.  The tree guy was actually hoping we wouldn’t ask the price, hoping that we would trust insurance to pay for it and then be stuck.  Companies like his rely on people to panic and take the advice of the calm foreman who assures speed and competence without asking for cost.  Insurance companies don’t pay for the work directly in homeowner situations – the homeowner is responsible for the contracts and the insurance company cuts the homeowner a check for the amount they will cover.  So if the check isn’t enough, the homeowner is still responsible for the difference.

B called his agent in the hopes that he has a better reco for a tree removal service.  It turns out that he did.  The service that came out next isn’t one of the insurance companies “recommended vendors,” but they are a customer of our agent and he believes they are reputable.  The foreman was dressed in picnic attire (shorts, sandals and a collared shirt) and apologized for the delay as he was pulled from a family thing.  We thanked him for the visit and explained the situation.  He took a look around and explained the rate scale for his company.  They charged $625 an hour with a 4 hour minimum ($2500) and removal was another $500.  He said his crew could definitely get the backyard cleared (both trees) in the 4 hours. The only “extra” charge was the weekend charge of $250, which we may not get reimbursed for, but that’s still better than the first quote and we could still get the work done the same day.

During all this, the power crew showed up and confirmed that they wouldn’t touch the tree.  They could just cut the lines and reattach them to the utility line once they fixed it. This would take about two hours (it took way longer).  The foreman told us that this was good timing since it would take him about two hours to round up a crew.  B and I took a nap for the majority of those two hours.

The rest of the story is pretty typical.  The tree service crew showed up at 3:30 pm and got to work.  It did take them the better part of 4 hours to clear the back yard, and they worked with the power company to stay out of each other’s way.  They ended up being the service that professionally tarpped the roof, but B could have done the same job for the cost of better tarps.  In fact, they used the tarps that B had already used that morning in addition to two additional double sided tarps.  It ended up raining Sunday night/Monday morning and there wasn’t additional water in the house that we could see, so it turned out fine.  The power came back on at 7pm, but somewhere in the middle of all the contractors, the DSL lines were cut.  I waited on hold with AT&T for 50 mins to have a five minute ticket opened for someone to come out on Monday.  (The dude on Monday was on the ball, though, and got my internet back up without having to wait for the lines to be reattached to the utility pole.)

B thanked me at the end of the day for not freaking out and making sure we stayed on point with what needed to be done.  I was a bit taken aback by this.  Recently we were camping at Gulf Wars, when a tornado south of the site caused straight line winds and storm though the entire site.  While I didn’t panic, my immediate focus was to get to our tent and make sure it was packed well enough to drop the tent if it needed to be dropped.  It didn’t need to be dropped, but I wasn’t one of the people afterwards that we to volunteer and help others stay on point. I don’t deal well with panicking people.  B is one of those people who can handle other people panicking, though.  He is able to turn his effort outward once his personal stuff has been secured, but I am better able to deal with long term making sure we are secure.  I think we make a good team.  🙂

I’m sure there will be more updates on roofers and contractors and I’ll try to make sure to talk about the “gotchas” we run across.


*Our grill has one of those “sidecar” burners for sauteing veggies and the like, so boiling a pot of water for the french press and cooking eggs and sausage for breakfast was no problem without electricity.  Our neighbors have stated that they will rely on us during the zombie apocalypse, but I don’t know how to break it to them that we wouldn’t stay in the city…

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