The oak trees at Joe and Barbara Muzetska’s home in Eatontown must have stood for 50 or 60 years, until the superstorm brought them down onto their Ford Explorer and their house.
Joe Muzetska, 75, marveled. He had been through his share of nor’easters. The oak trees had always survived.
“In the 50 years we’ve been here, we’ve survived heavy snowstorms, nor’easters,” Muzetska said. “I always said the mighty oaks, nothing can take them down. This time it took the trees. I can’t believe it.”
After a terrifying night, central New Jersey homeowners Tuesday morning are getting their first look at the historic damage wrought by Sandy.
The storm created two major problems for homeowners – flood and wind. And insurance experts offered advice on how to navigate what could be a lengthy rebuilding process.
The storm seems all but assured to be the most expensive natural disaster to hit New Jersey, taking aim on $55 billion worth of coastal property in Monmouth and Ocean counties, not to mention billions more inland in the affluent Garden State.
Homeowners’ insurance policies generally cover damage to the building’s structure and the contents inside. It doesn’t include flood insurance, which homeowners in flood zones typically buy through a government program or private insurers.
Just like last year, there is a lot of money riding on semantics. A storm classified by the National Weather Service as a hurricane – with sustained winds of 74 mph anywhere in the state – would trigger more expensive hurricane deductibles.
That means homeowners would pay anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent of the value of their home for repairs, with insurers covering the rest. So a homeowner with a $350,000 home and a 2 percent deductible would pay the first $7,000. If it’s not a hurricane, homeowners would pay a less expensive deductible, about $500 to $1,000.
The information is on the first page of most homeowners’ policies.
Sandy seemed to have sustained winds of more than 74 mph. But it was labeled a post-tropical cyclone by the National Weather Service when it made landfall.
Insurance experts, however, said there are steps consumers should take.
• Call your insurance company promptly.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent further damage, but don’t put yourself at risk.
• Do a home inventory to assess damage.
• Take photos.
• Be patient. Insurers prioritize calls based on the amount of damage.
“The people with the most damage get seen first,” Lynne McChristian. a spokeswoman for the Insurance Insurance Information Institute, said.
Joe Muzetska managed to find a path outside his home on Rutland Place. The toppled oak trees blocked his view of the front of his home. But as he looked around, he saw something strange.
“I just went out to look around the neighborhood and I don’t see any problems,” he said. “It must have been a gust of wind that just slid right through and took the trees with it.”
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