This year the National Weather Service predicted a high probability of a cool, wet winter for the southeast United States. In Texas, so far, that prediction has been bang on.
Over Halloween weekend, a storm battered the south-central and southeast parts of the state, leaving six dead. The weekend before, on October 25, remnants of Hurricane Patricia exacerbated flooding from a storm system that had already dropped more than a foot of rain in parts of Texas.
Plano, Texas, saw almost 9 ½ inches fall in October – more than twice its typical rainfall. Kelli Robertson, of Plano, saw water level with the top of the gutters in the street during the October 23-25 storm.
Her family lost power for twelve hours and cleaned up water pouring in through a leaky roof. They dressed by flashlight and traveled through sodden streets to send their children to school – where the children faced intermittent power outages throughout the day.
“[Her husband] Paul was like, ‘Yeah, I’m thinking about emergency preparation,’” she said.
Here are some things they were thinking about.
Several months before, hail damaged many homes in Robertson’s neighborhood. After that storm, many of their neighbors replaced their roofs. Though her home had minor damage, Kelli’s family couldn’t get it fixed.
During the October 24 storm, her husband Paul noticed water pouring through the return air vent in their home’s ceiling. He ran up to the attic and saw water.
“It was running down the inside of the wood, down vents into the house. It was never ending,” Kelli said.
They put buckets under the leaks and mopped the water up with towels.
Now they’re trying to figure out how to fix the roof. They have insurance, and homeowner’s policies usually cover storm damage if it comes from above. However, they have a high deductible.
“We can’t do a new roof right now. No way,” she said.
This year, they already had to spend several thousand dollars fixing a water main that broke and flooded their yard. Their insurance policy only covered the cost of digging up the leaky pipe; not repairs. Since the digging cost was less than their deductible, Kelli’s family ended up paying for the whole job.
“I’ve learned a lot more about insurance lately,” she said.
Federal emergency management officials recommend homeowners buy flood insurance in addition to regular homeowner’s insurance. It’s available through local agents but is backed by the National Flood Insurance Program, a federal program. For an average of $600 per year, based on standardized rates determined by an area’s flood risks, homeowners get up to $350,000 worth of coverage for their home and possessions. When buying insurance, be aware of deductibles and caps on compensation. The flood insurance program only covers a home’s structure up to $250,000.
In addition to an interior rain storm, Kelli’s family faced a power outage for 12 hours.
“We had no power. We had cell phones, but we didn’t know how long we’d need them to last. We had food, but we couldn’t cook on the stove,” Kelli said.
However, others outside their neighborhood had power or quickly regained it. Their children all had school that day.
“The school sent us an e-mail: ‘Your power may be out but we still have school, so come in.’” she said. “We had to dress by flashlight.”
At her son’s middle school, power was intermittent, so he spent much of the day in the school cafeteria. She said a neighbor a few streets away had power back early in the day. She and Paul decided to go out to lunch that day. Their preferred taco restaurant had no power. But another did.
“You’d go … to a shopping center and it was like a different city,” she said.
Being prepared for a power outage is a good idea. Fortunately, we’ve got alternative power sources to help see you through the dark times.
Weather.com also recommends people keep coolers and ice on hand to protect food. Keeping food surrounded by ice keeps it cold for longer.
The Food and Drug Administration says to throw away any perishable food left at more than 40 degrees for more than two hours. Weather.com also recommends a digital, quick-response food thermometer to check the temperature of food before eating or cooking it.
Kelli has called a roof repair company and is waiting for a reply. But there’s no letup in the weather ahead. Plano is under another flash flood watch.