IOWA DERECHO 2020

Tarps covering derecho damage prove no match for ongoing rain

This week's foul weather brings more headaches for homeowners

Linda Smith points Thursday to damage in her kitchen where a branch came through the ceiling and through the wall into t
Linda Smith points Thursday to damage in her kitchen where a branch came through the ceiling and through the wall into the family room at her home in northwest Cedar Rapids. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A month after the derecho ripped off roofs and thrust tree limbs through rafters, the quilt of blue tarps left to temporarily protect so many homes is time and again proving no match for this week’s relentless rains — and yet more damage.

“We had finally gotten to the point where things were drying out. We were in the middle of the (mold) mitigation process,” said homeowner Geri Smith. “And now everything is wet again.”

Smith lost the roof and a side wall to the master bedroom of her northeast Cedar Rapids town house when the Aug. 10 derecho tore through with over 100 mph winds.

“On day two, I was able to get the damage to the roof and the wall tarped pretty quickly, but there was a lot of water damage from the storm and everything was wet,” she said. “It took three weeks before I could get a contractor in to look at the place and start the mitigation process, and we were just in the final stages of getting the mold taken care of when these recent storms hit, and the tarp doesn’t seem to be holding up.”

Hundreds — if not thousands — of Cedar Rapids residents are in the same boat as a cold front moved last weekend into Eastern Iowa, bringing high winds over the weekend followed by days of rain. Those relying on tarps or other temporary fixes to keep the weather out found themselves looking for other stopgap measures.

“I’ve just been putting big tubs under the drips,” said Linda Smith — no relation to Geri Smith — who lives with her husband in northwest Cedar Rapids. During the derecho, Linda Smith said trees came down on the house, smashing through the roof of her living room and garage.

With the trees now removed and the tarps in place, she said she and her husband were focused on dealing with the insurance and hiring contractors when the latest storms rolled in.

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“It’s not ideal,” Smith said. “Sure I’m concerned because you never know if a gust of wind is going to take that tarp or not. There’s just a lot of uncertainty right now.

“You know,” she added, “I was talking to a friend of mine — she’s living in a hotel and is in the middle of the water mitigation … but now with the storm and the rain, she said more water is coming in so they’re going to have to start all over again. So that’s got to be a big disappointment.”

That friend happens to be Geri Smith. Unlike their friend, Linda and Jim Smith have been able to remain in their home. Geri Smith has been staying in a hotel and likely will continue doing so until at least the end of October.

“It’s going to be a long process,” she said. “Actually it was already going to be a long process. But this past week just means it’s going to take even longer.”

“A lot of people are really having a hard time right now, and that’s made even harder with all this rain,” agreed Tami Young, co-owner of Young Construction, which has offices in Mason City, Waverly and, since April, Cedar Rapids.

Since the derecho, Young said she’s had crews in Cedar Rapids neighborhoods helping residents put tarps over holes in their roofs and connecting with people who recently had their roofs repaired to make sure they didn’t have further damage.

“We’ve been constantly getting calls since Aug. 10, and we’ve tarped hundreds of houses in Cedar Rapids since the storm,” Young said. “But over the weekend, we had even more calls coming in from people either because water in getting into their house again or they didn’t think they had roof damage from the derecho and are now finding leaks and wet spots. So it’s been a battle. It’s been an ongoing battle for everyone.”

To top it off, Young said repair supplies are scarce and area contractors already have more jobs coming in than they can handle.

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“You know, we feel for the homeowners and we feel for the suppliers that are trying to get material,” she said. “Materials have been kind of scarce lately due to COVID-19, and there are so many homeowners calling us for help, and we just can’t help them all. You know there’s a shortage of material, there’s a shortage of contractors and now we’ve got this rain happening. It’s unbelievable.”

And with the rain comes trickles of water that find their way through cracked plaster and torn shingles and holes in tarps, leading to additional or new damage, which in some cases could lead an insurance company to reject all or part of a homeowner’s previous claim.

“What we’re seeing right now is a lot of homeowners who have done their jobs — meaning they have done what they can to prevent further damage to their homes — and are now struggling with their insurance companies to have their claims paid out,” said Caeden Tinlenberg, chief executive officer of Swift Public Adjusters in Des Moines.

“So most insurance policies mandate that the policyholder — the homeowner or business owner or whoever that may be — take all reasonable measures to protect their property from further damage,” Tinlenberg said. “So for people that had shingles blown off or entire sections of roof blown off, what that looks like is typically securing tarps over the damages to prevent rain from coming in. But if the rain does manage to find its way in, and more damage occurs, then the homeowner could have some difficulty getting that covered.”

In some cases, Tinlenberg said, insurance companies will try to get away with paying as little as possible toward a homeowner’s claim often by saying homeowners did not take the necessary precautions.

“And that’s probably what we’re going to see here with this rain,” he said.

Tinlenberg said he hasn’t seen a lot of instances of that happening yet but “the longer this goes on, the longer it continues to rain, the longer people have to wait for adjusters and contractors and materials, the more challenging it is going to be to rebuild and recover.”

Between the damage to their home and the massive tree loss that occurred on their used-to-be-wooded lot, Linda Smith said she expects she and her husband will still be dealing with the storm’s aftermath well into the next year.

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“I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I know it’s going to be a long time before things are even somewhat back to normal,” she sad. “I keep telling my husband it will happen in increments.”

The National Weather Service predicts showers are likely and thunderstorms possible Friday and Saturday for Cedar Rapids before a clear stretch begins Sunday.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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