Aid coming for West Seneca flood victims

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Worried homeowners in West Seneca met Tuesday night in hopes of getting some desperately needed help after damaging floods.

Stephanie Serrano said, “We’re scared. We’re financially screwed. We are not an address. We are not a claim number. We are a family.”

She and other West Seneca homeowners fear another potential ice jam on Buffalo Creek could again wreak havoc on their Lexington Green neighborhood.

“What’s going to happen [with] this again?” Joe Koziol asked. “If I put stuff in my basement, is it going to happen again? It’s coming. The coldness is coming and it’s going to thaw again.”

While the National Weather Service had issued a general alert about flash flooding, the creek in this neighborhood was not closely monitored. When it overflowed its banks, people became trapped in their homes without heat or power.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “The problem is, this area is not normally the worst flooding zone. It resulted because of the ice jam that built up and had nowhere else to go.”

First responders immediately began evacuating residents during the flooding, but some lack flood insurance and mounting expenses have left them without the ability to pay.

“We need help,” said Linda Mehnert. “We’ve maxed out credit cards. I’m sure everybody here has maxed out credit cards. We just retired, and we don’t know what we’re going to do. And I’ll be honest with you, I am afraid to live in my home right now.”

Town officials say damaged homes will be reassessed, reducing property taxes. Volunteer groups are now being organized for a full-scale relief effort.

Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan assured, “We have tapped into every resource we have in the Town of West Seneca and if we didn’t have it, we were not shy about reaching out to our surrounding communities and asking and their response was immediate.”

Saturday is being called “A Day of Caring,” when a big relief effort will try to make a dent in the damage in West Seneca. Before then, on Wednesday and Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo is sending trained staff with the DFS Mobile Command Center to help flood victims with insurance issues.

The center will be at Winchester Community Church at 909 Harlem Road from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. Anyone who cannot make it is used to call the DFS Disaster Hotline at 1-800-339-1759.

The center provided the following tips for homeowners:

File Claims Promptly. Homeowners who experienced property losses are urged to file insurance claims with their insurers promptly and as soon as possible after losses occur. It is important to provide policy numbers if possible and all information relevant to the loss. To best document losses, homeowners should take photos or videos showing the extent of the losses before cleaning up damage.

Making Necessary Repairs. Homeowners should protect their property from further damage after a loss, but should make only necessary repairs to prevent further damage to property, like covering broken windows. Permanent repairs should not be made until after insurers have inspected losses.

Keep Records of Dealings with Insurance Representatives. Homeowners should cooperate fully with their insurer and keep a diary of all conversations with insurance representatives, including the representatives’ names, as well as the times and dates of all calls or visits. They should also follow up in writing with the representatives to document their understanding of any conversations they’ve had with the representatives.

Inventory Your Belongings. Provide your insurer with a detailed room-by-room inventory of damaged personal items and property. Include any receipts, credit card or other documents showing the items’ values.

Flood Damage. Homeowners are also reminded that flood damage is generally only covered by flood insurance, which is a federal program administered by FEMA. Homeowners who have flood insurance and have flood damage should make claims through that insurance. Additionally, homeowners should also read their policies carefully to make sure they understand what damage is covered and under what circumstances. For additional on flood insurance, please visit the Flood Insurance Resource Center on the DFS website at http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/flood_info.htm.

Keep Your Receipts If You Relocate During Repairs. If you need to temporarily relocate while your home is being repaired, make sure to keep receipts and other records of your expenses during that time.

Filing a Complaint. Homeowners unable to resolve disputes can contact DFS to file a complaint at: http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm.

Information on Homeowners Insurance. Additional information can be found at the Homeowners Resource Center on the Department of Financial Services’ website at: http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/home_resources.htm.

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