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Entries in Hurricane Sandy (23)

Tuesday
Jan082013

NY Couple Says Allstate Short-Changed Them, Put Home in Ad

PRNewsFoto/Allstate Insurance Co.(NEW YORK) -- A Staten Island, N.Y., couple said their insurance company short-changed them after Superstorm Sandy destroyed their home, and then used their house in a commercial.

In October, Sheila Traina, 64, and her husband, Dominic, 66, had evacuated their home in New Dorp Beach in response to warnings from local authorities about the storm.

Traina said a neighbor who had stayed behind called and told them the wind had knocked the roof off their two-story home but their insurer, Allstate, said the damage to their home was due to flooding.

"He said the house came down before the storm, came down and water finished it off," Traina said of her neighbor.

Allstate told her it was storm surge that caused the damage, she said.

The insurance company offered the Trainas, who did not have flood insurance, about $10,000 for the damages.  They say the amount is well short of the $280,000 for which their home and its contents were insured.

"We have a witness," Traina said.  "If you witnessed a murder, somebody would get convicted I would think."

The storm's winds also knocked down a 30-foot tall tree across the street, Traina said.

She said she has refused to accept the $10,000 and is planning to hire an attorney to fight for a settlement that matches the value of her home.

In the meantime, the Trainas are staying in a family member's home that is three miles away.  Her husband is retired but they have income from his late mother's home, which they are renting.

Traina, an administrative secretary, said she had hoped to retire next year, but her plans are on hold until they can rebuild their home.

A spokeswoman from Allstate said the company is "committed to resolving the matter in accordance with the policy they purchased from our company."

"Allstate is always focused on ensuring our customers are completely satisfied," the spokeswoman said.  "In major disasters such as Sandy, we are often the first on the scene providing financial and emotional support."

The Trainas said they previously had flood insurance, provided by the U.S. government's National Flood Insurance Program, but their payments were more than the reimbursement amounts they received for previous incidents.

Traditional private homeowners policies, such as those of Allstate, do not cover flood losses, the company said.

"We encourage our customers to consider flood insurance to protect themselves in ways that would not be covered under a homeowner's policy," Allstate said.

What the Trainas said upset them further was that an image of their damaged home was used in a commercial for Allstate.

After their Thanksgiving dinner, Traina said her husband and grandchildren were watching a football game when her grandchildren said they saw their home in a television advertisement.

"It was just a picture of our chair and our kitchen window but it was noticeable what they were showing," she said.  "It was not a happy Thanksgiving after that."

Allstate said the advertisement "showed general images of the destruction caused by Sandy including a partial image of the Trainas' home."

"It does not reference them as customers or in any way imply they are satisfied with the status of their claim.  We regret any concern this advertisement may have caused the Trainas and images of their home will not be included in Allstate's advertising," the company said.

Allstate said it has made almost $1.1 billion in claim payments and continues to work with local Allstate agencies and The Allstate Foundation's support of non-profit organizations.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov152012

Sandy-Affected States Had Biggest Foreclosure Increases

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Foreclosures increased 3 percent in October from September to 186,455 U.S. properties, according to RealtyTrac, as states with longer legal processes finally see their foreclosures close.

The foreclosure research firm reported Thursday that one in every 706 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing in October, which is still above levels for a healthy housing market but still 19 percent down from October 2011.

[ CLICK HERE TO SEE REALTYTRAC'S FULL REPORT ]

“Nationally, the trend appears to be downward, but what stood out to me are the sharp increases in foreclosure activity in many of the judicial foreclosure states where the foreclosure process is much more lengthy,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.

The three states with the biggest annual increases in foreclosure activity in October happened to be those most affected by Superstorm Sandy, which Blomquist called a coincidence.  They were New Jersey (140 percent), New York (123 percent) and Connecticut (41 percent).

The foreclosure moratoriums in effect as a result of Sandy will likely extend the already-lengthy time to foreclose in these states, further delaying a sound housing recovery, he said.

Another source of worry was an increase in foreclosure activity in metropolitan areas that had previously been on a downward trend.  Those include Las Vegas (up 45 percent) and Modesto, Calif. (up 68 percent).

“It’s a little bit early because it’s a one-month trend, but those types of big increases are a little concerning,” Blomquist said.  “We’re definitely not out of the woods yet.  There are still batches of foreclosures that those markets have to absorb.”

Florida had the country’s highest foreclosure rate for the second month in a row, as one in every 312 housing units had a foreclosure filing in October, followed by Nevada, Illinois, California and Arizona.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov132012

SBA, IRS Helping Businesses Hurt by Sandy

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Beleaguered businesses in and around New York City, still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, are beginning to get relief in the form of government loans and tax breaks.

In communities like Red Hook in Brooklyn, the storm surge affected enterprises big and small: The sprawling Fairway Market chain saw the ground floor of its Red Hook market -- located in a 19th Century brick warehouse -- destroyed by the same wall of water that flooded out the basement of tiny textile and stationery boutique Foxy & Winston a few blocks away.

At the Brooklyn Navy Yard Industrial Park, Dal LaMagna, CEO and president of IceStone USA, has applied for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan of $1.9 million.  The company, which turns recycled glass into counter-tops, employs 39.  After years of losses, it was just starting to turn the corner into profitability when Sandy knocked it for a loop.

"Sandy slammed the door shut in our face," says LaMagna.  "Our inventory was completely submerged.  All our marketing materials were under water."

So, too, were 60 electric motors and 70 electrical outlets.  Five forklift trucks will have to be replaced.  His insurer, he says, told him he was out of luck because IceStone's coverage did not include coastal flooding.

"We can't afford to replace the equipment," he says.  "The only good news: We may get an SBA loan.  We applied for one immediately.  We wanted to make sure we were at the head of the line.  I can't imagine how many will apply."

And if he doesn't get it, "We're done," LaMagna says.  "We'll have to close.  My goal is to save 39 people's jobs."

Bill Sanford, CEO of Fairway, tells ABC News his Red Hook inventory is "a total loss."  Though Fairway was "very well insured" against a catastrophe, he does not rule out the possibility that the company may eventually seek assistance from the SBA, which is making loans of up to $2 million to companies struggling to get back on their feet.

Over at Foxy & Winston, owner and artist Jane Buck says, "Our basement is a mess."  Her losses include a box of children's T-shirts ($600), which she accidently dropped during the storm, only to see it swept away by floodwaters.  

Though business is slow, she's managed to reopen.  

"I'm one of the lucky ones," she tells ABC News.  It may take a month, she thinks, for neighboring businesses to be up and running again.

Buck says she's aware of the loans being offered by the SBA and is thinking of applying -- in her case, for $25,000.

"Part of me says the money ought to go to someone more in need than me," she says.  "But maybe three months from now I'll wish I'd borrowed.  The interest rate is just 1 percent.  Part of me thinks I should get in line."

Carol Chastang, press liaison for the SBA, says anyone can apply for these loans -- you don't have to be a small business owner, nor do you have to own a building or a home.  Renters are eligible, so, too, are non-profits.  Of the several kinds of loans available, some cover damages to structures and property, others are meant to supply funds for payroll and other operating costs.

Borrowers, depending on their financial health, can get up to 30 years to repay.  The loans are the same kind as were offered after hurricanes Irene and Katrina.

The IRS also is offering relief.  Under certain circumstances, affected business owners will be given additional time to file returns and pay taxes.  The service also provides advice on reconstructing lost or damaged business records.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov072012

Sellers Find Price Gouging Opportunities Post-Sandy Through Craigslist

Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The demand for power and emergency-related equipment after superstorm Sandy is causing spiking prices on Craigslist and other markets, despite government warnings and laws prohibiting price gouging.  But are such measures a help or do they actually hurt consumers?

Mark Perry, professor of economics at the University of Michigan, points out that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's warnings against price gouging have exacerbated the post-disaster marketplace that is already under stress from high demand and low supply.

Perry, a scholar with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said there are over 600 listings for generators in North New Jersey on Craigslist, some listed for thousands of dollars when they are often sold for $700 or less.

"Anti-price gouging laws are really guaranteed shortage laws," he said.  "You're preventing the market from working and using the magic of allocating resources, creating shortages.  The market is innovative and resilient.  The market has gone from stores into Craigslist and now we have this formal marketplace."

Perry said it is likely some people are buying products at hardware stores at normal prices due to regulations prohibiting businesses from selling products with a mark-up higher than 10 percent over pre-disaster prices.  They then are re-selling those online or in other markets where demand is high.

He said preventing price gouging actually keeps prices artificially low, whereas allowing the market to operate naturally would cause prices to increase for a couple days, then decrease.

But the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs doesn't agree.  On Friday, it announced that it issued 65 subpoenas to businesses in the state, as it investigated over 500 consumer complaints about alleged price gouging.

"Having visited some of the hardest-hit areas of our state, and having seen firsthand the suffering people are experiencing, I assure New Jersey's residents and retailers that we are taking a zero-tolerance approach to price gouging," said Christie in a statement Friday.  "Fuel, electricity, food, and a place to sleep are not luxuries, certainly not for individuals who have been displaced from their homes and in many cases have limited resources at their disposal.  We are not asking businesses to function as charities.  We require that they obey New Jersey's laws -- or pay significant penalties."

But Perry argues that allowing the marketplace to set prices is the most efficient way to allocate scarce supplies.

"If we want generators, blankets and other supplies to get into New Jersey as quickly as possible, allow prices to rise temporarily so it attracts resources that are needed the most," Perry said. "Those high prices are an emergency flare to the rest of the country to attract those products to those areas."

The post-disaster marketplace creates an unexpected urgency for many products.  Even supplies like road flares used by the New York Police Department were in short supply, prompting a call for help from other agencies.

"We needed road flares for post-storm coverage complicated by the long gas lines that had formed on streets round gas station," said the NYPD's chief spokesperson, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne.  "We were inundated with contributions through Intelligence Division's Sentry Program."

Utility companies are still struggling to restore heat and electricity to 930,783 customers without power in six states, the Energy Department reported Tuesday afternoon, a decrease of nearly 43,000 customers since that morning.

The need for power is especially acute as a nor'easter is expected to bring gusty winds and rain this week to the already hard-hit region.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

Businesses Making Money Off Hurricane Sandy

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Damage from Hurricane Sandy is bad news for homeowners, but it's good news for plumbers, carpenters, tree surgeons, trash haulers, carpet cleaners, scrap dealers and a host of other businesses whose services are now in peak demand.

Bernard Baumohl, executive director of the Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, N.J., predicts that recovery efforts in the Northeast will add half a percentage point to U.S. GDP.

"We're looking at some major reconstruction taking place at homes, boats, bridges, boardwalks, parks and public transportation," he told New Jersey's Star-Ledger on Sunday.

Economics professor Peter Morici at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland estimates that while economic losses from Sandy could range from $35 billion to $45 billion, the economic payoff from reconstruction could be as much as $36 billion, plus another $10 billion gain, afterwards, from having an improved and more modern infrastructure.

The biggest beneficiaries of Hurricane Sandy include:

  • Disaster Recovery Companies: ProStar Residential Disaster Cleanup in Milford, Conn., reports its phones are ringing nonstop from customers asking for help fixing broken windows and flooded basements.
  • Tree Surgeons: Ridgewood Tree Service in Bergen County, N.J., tells the Washington Post it is getting 200 phone calls a day, non-stop.  At North Jersey Tree Specialists in Wayne, N.J., the office manager, Tara Gallagher, told the Star-Ledger, "We're ridiculously busy.  We're swamped getting trees out of people's properties."
  • Generator and Pump Makers: Manufacturers as far away from the disaster as Minnesota and Wisconsin are benefiting from the Northeast's urgent need for more electrical generators, both portable and fixed.  Todd Teske, chairman and CEO of generator-maker Briggs & Stratton in Wauwatosa, Wis., told the Business Journal of Milwaukee his company has ramped up production and authorized more overtime; it soon will be hiring more workers.  Pentair, a major pump manufacturer in Golden Valley, Minn., says it expects to make $10 million in Sandy-related emergency sales to customers in New York and New Jersey.
  • Carpet Cleaners: These are boom times for companies like Century Carpet Cleaning in Ocean City, N.J.  Owner Rob Greenebaum told the Salisbury, Md., Daily Times on Sunday that he had been up since 5 a.m. Wednesday, working nonstop.  Eleven Century trucks are now at work in Wayne, N.J., and Greenebaum says he is bringing in extra drying equipment by the tractor-trailer load from contractors in other states as reinforcements.
  • Plumbers, Electricians: Basim Mansour, owner of Michael & Son Services in Alexandria, Va., tells the Washington Post his volume of incoming calls has increased 20 percent.  Plumbing-related sales have increased 35 percent, he estimates, mostly from homeowners reporting broken generators or non-working sump pumps.  At the John C. Flood company, also in Alexandria, owner Moe Haislip tells the Post his crews are working 16-hour shifts. "Our business is up probably 30 or 40 percent," he said earlier this week, when the number of people without power in the Washington area was estimated to be more than 100,000.
  • Scrap yards: All over the Northeast, scrap yards are bracing for a spike in business. Yard owners say they expect to see a 10 percent to 15 percent weekly increase in scrap metal volume, starting in about a week -- first in the form of aluminum siding, copper pipes and home wiring; then steel from light posts, boilers and hot water heaters.  Last will come cars, once insurance companies have consigned them to the heap.
  • Boat Repair: Though many boats were tossed around, beached or broken by the hurricane, and though demand for repairs is strong, work temporarily is being hampered by two factors, according to a spokesman for the Boat Owners Association of the United States: Many marinas literally were washed away; and those that have survived are having trouble getting electric power.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

Top Four Tips for Working Productively at Home After Sandy

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While over 1.3 million people are still without power after superstorm Sandy, thousands are without a means of transportation or their offices are shut-down and are working from home.

Interrupted public transportation, flooded roads and a lack of gas have kept many workers unable to commute to their offices.  For those who can conduct business from home, they still run into connectivity and power problems.

Here are tips for those working at home:

1. Go to a free Wi-Fi hot spot area.

Those having connectivity issues may be able to log onto Comcast's Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots for free.  Last week, Comcast announced it was making the service available outside of its subscriber base in areas affected by Sandy.  On Monday, it announced it was extending that through the end of November.  The free service is available in Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia and Massachusetts.  You can visit www.xfinity.com/wifi for locations.

2. Create a Wi-Fi hot spot with your cellular coverage.

If you don't have electric power, your home Internet connection is likely out of commission.  But those who have a smart phone and access to battery power can activate a Wi-Fi hot-spot for up to 10 devices using your phone.  This service comes included in Verizon Wireless' "Share Everything Plans," which start at $90 for 3G or 4G devices.  Activating a hot spot allows you to create your own 4G LTE version wireless network.  If you have an older Verizon Wireless nationwide plan, you can purchase a mobile hot spot for $20 a month.  Customers only need to call customer service to activate that.

3. Switching services.

As utility companies are working to restore power, phone and cable companies are trying to restore cellular and Internet services.  Some residents in Long Island, N.Y., are finding more reliability in switching to Fios and fiber, from traditional copper lines for their cable and Internet services.

"Because of the way Fios is constructed, there is no electrical current that runs from consumer's home and our switching facility," said Bill Kula, spokesman for Verizon.  "So if and when our power goes out, there is a backup battery unit that supplies some emergency reserve time for the customer."

That doesn't mean fiber lines will always function when copper lines fail.  Fios still requires commercial power.

4. To remain productive, some at-home workers should make sure they are staying healthy.

Town Sports International is offering free visits to its 160 gyms until Nov. 14 to those 18 and older with a photo ID.  The company's franchise includes Boston Sports Club, New York Sports Club, Washington Sports Club and Philadelphia Sports Club.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

ABC's 'Day of Giving' Campaign Raises $15M for Sandy Relief Efforts

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- All day Monday, ABC joined the American Red Cross for a "Day of Giving," urging viewers to donate money to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

The "Day of Giving" campaign was promoted on ABC shows such as Good Morning America, Dancing with the Stars and Jimmy Kimmel Live!  At last word, it had raised over $15.6 million, including a match of $3 million from Samsung.

GMA had several celebrities work a phone bank, accepting donations from viewers.  Those stars included Barbara Walters, Ben Stiller, Ethan Hawke, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Rachael Ray, Tony Danza, Cameron Mathison, Anthony Edwards, Ana Gasteyer, Daisy Fuentes and Andrew Shue.

Danza said the devastation caused by the storm has brought people together.

"No matter who you are or where you come from, we're all people and we all have to pull together to get through this," he said.

Snooki said she is still without power, but wanted to help people who are worse off than she is.

Hawke noted the storm has impacted his off-Broadway play, Ivanov.

He said, "I've only had one show ever canceled, which was Sept. 11, and now we had six canceled, a whole week of performances canceled, that's the only way that I can really grade the scale of this 'cause it always takes me a while to register...this is really serious."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov022012

Economic Losses from Sandy Could Reach $50 Billion

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A catastrophe modeling company says that Hurricane Sandy could result in economic losses reaching $50 billion.

It's quite a different and more distressing figure than what Eqecat Inc. came up with earlier in the week.

After Sandy swept through the Eastern Seaboard, devastating large areas of New Jersey and New York City, Eqecat Inc. put economic losses at $20 billion, with as much as $10 billion in insured losses.

By Thursday, the revised estimate was $30 billion to $50 billion, with $20 billion in insured losses.

On a more positive note, it's expected that New Jersey and New York homeowners won't have to pay hurricane deductibles on insurance claims since theoretically the storm was downgraded from hurricane status by the time it reached landfall Monday evening.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov022012

Top Six Things to Know About Flooding After Hurricane Sandy

@eewolff609(NEW YORK) -- The extent of the devastation to homes and businesses caused by Sandy is still emerging, but it is already being estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

The overwhelming cause of the damage was flooding which inundated whole towns, broke gas mains, swamped power stations and crippled the region.  The salt water ruined cars, businesses and homes.

Now, the clean-up begins along with the claims to insurance companies.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has an online tool that helps shows a rough estimate of how much flooding, by height of water, could cost a household.  A home that spans 1,000 square feet with six inches of flooding could have total losses of $20,150.  Those costs, which vary by state and by type of home, include $1,000 in cleaning; $150 for electrical and plumbing; $7,900 in wood and carpet repair; thousands of dollars more in appliance and furniture replacement; and $1,100 in repairing doors, base trim and windows.

ABC News asked Judith Spry, partner in the insurance claims services practice at BDO Consulting, about what those who have experienced flooding should do to recover.

Double-Check Insurance Policies
Spry cautions that homeowners and business owners should never fully rely on an insurance policy.  It is especially important to review your homeowner's policy with your agent or broker so you understand the amount you will receive in the event of a covered loss, and whether it will be adequate to rebuild your home.  Homeowners should also know the amount of a deductible and any special provisions in the policy such as wind exclusions.

Start the Insurance Claims Process as Soon as Possible
The NFIP recommends you first call your agent or insurance company to file a claim and an adjustor should contact you within a few days.  You should know the name of your insurance company, your policy number and contact information where you can be reached.  Business loss insurance coverage usually begins after a waiting period of about 72 hours and claims can take weeks for companies to estimate.

Assess Your Property
The NFIP recommends you separate undamaged from damaged property and make a list of damaged or lost items, including date of purchase, value and receipts if possible.

Take Video or Photos for a Home Inventory
For insurance purposes and for your own personal keepsake in case of a disaster, you should have a home inventory or a photographic record.  Take photographs of damaged property, including discarded objects, structural damage and standing floodwater levels.  If you don't have a record of a purchase, some insurers may accept a photograph or video of a damaged object.  If you don't have a receipt of something, such as a new television, you may be able to go to the store where you bought it and ask if they have a record of the purchase.

If You Have Flood Insurance, You'll Get a "Proof of Loss" Form
Your adjuster will provide you a Proof of Loss form for your official claim for damages, which you must file with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood.  You should receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss form.  If major catastrophic flooding occurs, it may take longer to process claims, according to the NFIP.

You Don't Need a Public Adjuster on a Big Claim
Spry says you do not need a public adjuster.  Public adjusters, who work for you and not the insurance company, will take a percentage of a claim even if the insured is investing a significant amount of time, such as preparing forms, for the process.  She recommends having an accounting firm to provide claims preparation coverage.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov012012

Travel Industry Begins to Move Again After Sandy's Mess

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's been one of the most difficult weeks in memory for travelers. Nearly 20,000 flight cancellations, hotels that are flooded and shuttered, cruise ships stranded at sea. But a few days after Hurricane Sandy, travelers are beginning to travel once again.

While air travel is by no means back to normal (600-plus flights were cancelled Thursday, but that's far from the nearly 8,000 cancelled Tuesday and Wednesday), all three New York metropolitan airports -- JFK, LaGuardia and Newark -- are open. Other previously shuttered airports in the Northeast are also open to flights.

"Barring any unforeseen airport damage or operational issues like staff getting to the airport, road warriors should pretty much be back in business on Monday," said Rick Seaney, CEO of Fare Compare. "The trend in cancellations since Oct. 29 is a hockey stick in the downward direction."

Amtrak, too, is beginning to move. Starting Thursday, there is modified Northeast Regional service between Boston and New Haven, Conn., and between Newark, N.J., and points south. Amtrak will also operate shuttle service trains between Springfield, Mass., and New Haven; Keystone Service trains between Harrisburg, Penn., and Philadelphia; and Downeaster service trains between Boston and Portland, Maine, along with additional overnight services to and from the Northeast.

Amtrak is also taking reservations for modified service between New York City and points south, including Trenton and Philadelphia.

And the cruisers aboard the Norwegian Gem who were forced to stay at sea when the Port of New York closed the day they were scheduled to return from a nine-day cruise? They were given the option to leave the ship in Boston on Wednesday. Vanessa Lane, a Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson, said 50 percent opted to leave. The others returned to sea and will wait until New York's port re-opens to end their trips. The cruise line thinks that could be on Friday, Nov. 2.

Ericka Nelson, general manager of The Muse New York, said the hotel's been completely sold out since Saturday. Only now are guests starting to travel home. "In some cases they're renting cars, a few are getting on flights." But, she noted, "now we're focused on getting those rooms to locals who need a place to stay."

Orbitz, the travel booking website, reported a 15 percent increase in hotel bookings in New York City this week as compared with last week. In Washington, D.C., bookings were up a whopping 68 percent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio