Potholes and Vehicle Damage

Dogging potholes: The Midwest’s Spring Pastime

It is that time of year in the Midwest for the dreaded pothole!!!  As we finally thaw out from a bitter winter, we now have to switch gears from keeping our vehicles from sliding into ditches and other vehicles, to avoiding that potential vehicle damaging pothole.

Avoiding potholes is obviously the best practice but not always possible.  Here are some tips to help prevent damage from potholes:

  • Maintain proper tire pressure, this will keep the tire from pushing in towards the rim and damaging it if you do hit a pothole.
  • Keep a good distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you so you can identify potholes ahead of time and avoid them.
  • In inclement weather reduce your speeds so you have ample time to drive around the potholes.
  • Avoid that water! Accumulated water puddles in the street may be covering a pothole underneath it.  The size and depth unknown until you hit it.

Full car in a deep pothole.What parts of our vehicle can be damaged by hitting a pothole?

  • Tires, potential puncture, damage or wear
  • Wheel rim damage
  • Shocks & Struts
  • Suspension
  • Steering alignment
  • Exhaust system
  • Engine damage

Have your vehicle inspected if you think you have damage from hitting a pothole.

The collision coverage on your auto insurance policy will usually cover damage to your vehicle due to a pothole.  Call your agent to get exact coverage information.

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors

Sources: Insurance Information Institute
Firestone Complete Auto Care

How to Prepare for a Flood

March is Flood Awareness Month

flooded street with flood caution sign3/16-3/23 is Flood Awareness Week in Minnesota no matter where you live, spring time can bring the possibility of flooding to your area.  With that said, it is a good idea to be aware of the different types of terms used to describe flooding and to be prepared in case of a flood.

Flood Watch:

This is issued when flooding is possible in the area that you live.  Stay tuned to your local news via TV, Radio or a NOAA radio for further information.

Flood Warning:

This is issued when flooding is actually happening or will occur soon in your area.  Evacuate the area immediately if you are advised to do so.

Flash Flood Warning:

Issued when a flash flood is occurring or will occur soon.  Walk to higher ground immediately.

Urban and Small Stream Advisory:

Issued when small streams, streets and low-lying areas are flooding.

Preparing for a Possible Flood

  1. Purchase a NOAA weather radio with battery backup.
  2. Find out what your communities official flood warning signals are.
  3. Know the elevation level of your property and how flooding may affect it.
  4. Identify any dams in the area and find out if they pose a hazard.
  5. Check with your city in regards to flood evacuation routes and where to find higher ground.
  6. Put together a disaster kit, include flash lights, a battery operated radio or NOAA weather radio and extra batteries.  Pack a first aid kit, sleeping supplies and clothing.  Stock up on shelf stable food and bottled water. Include rubber gloves and rubber boots.  If you have pets, include food and pet carriers.
  7. Place important documents such as insurance policies, deeds, property documents and personal documents (i.e. social security cards and birth certificates) in a safe place offsite.  You can also keep these documents in a fire proof portable file box that you can take with you in an emergency.
  8. Have a predetermined meeting location for family members to go to in case you get separated due to an evacuation.  Ask an out of town relative to be a point of contact for family members.  Family members can call this person and report to them that they are safe.

Prepare your home

  1. Familiarize yourself with how to shut off you water, gas and electricity at the main switches and valves.  Learn how your heating system works and where gas pilots are located on your gas appliances. Before you leave turn the electricity off at the main breaker if you think your electrical outlets will be under water.  If time allows place sandbags around the outside of your home to help keep the flood waters out.
  2. If you live in an area that has a high potential for flooding consider having a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow valve.  Have your electrical outlets, switches and circuit breaker panel installed 12 inches above the expected flood levels for the area.
  3. Consider purchasing flood insurance. Regular homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. You must purchase separate flood insurance to be covered in case of a flood.  First check to make sure your community is registered for the national flood program, then check with your insurance agent for pricing.  In some cases, you may need a certificate of elevation to get the best rate.  Flood insurance policies take a minimum of 30 days to go into effect from the time of submission, unless mandatory coverage is requested for a loan.  Insurance companies may not issue you a policy if there is a threat of flooding in your area due to an impending storm (like a hurricane).

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors

Ice Dams: Ways to Prevent Them

Ice Dams | Home MaintenanceWinter is coming and it is always brutal one for the Midwest. The record amounts of snow and cold can create icicles on the roof and although they may look pretty, they may hold a more serious problem; Ice Dams!

Ice Dams form when the warm attic causes the snow on the roof to melt.  As the melted snow, now water, hits the edges of the roof where there is no heat it refreezes and creates an ice dam. The damage begins when the melted snow hits the frozen dam and pushes the water back, seeping through cracked shingles and poorly sealed vents forcing the water to flow into the attic or between the sidings of an exterior wall.  Once in the attic the water may leak through to the exterior walls and the ceilings.  The water damage can cause stains on the ceiling and walls.  Mold can also begin to form where there is constant moisture from the leaks.

Ways to Prevent Ice Dams

  • One way to prevent ice dams is to use a “roof rake” or “push broom” to pull the snow off the roof after it snows. You can purchase a roof rake from your local hardware store.  Roof rakes provide a safe way to remove the snow from your roof without having to climb up on a ladder or the roof.  If you use a push broom you may need to climb up on a ladder or the roof itself to use it effectively.  Make sure someone is around when you do this in case you fall off the roof.  If you are using a ladder, have someone hold the ladder steady while you are on it.
  • Make sure your attic insulation is adequate.  Proper insulation minimizes the amount of heat entering the attic. Make sure the roof vents in the attic are clear of anything blocking them.
  • Ensure the ridge vents or soffit vents are clear of debris and snow.
  • Check exhausts in the other parts of your house such as in your kitchen and bathroom.  Make sure they are vented to the outside of the house and NOT into the attic.
  • Clear your gutter spouts of debris so that nothing blocks the draining of water when the weather warms up.

Clearing the Ice Dams

Creating channels in the ice so the water has an exit from the roof is a good way to remove some of the water as it melts.  Be careful not to cause any damage to the roof shingles when creating the channels.

Put sodium chloride tablets inside the leg of an old pair of panty hose and throw them up on to the roof.  They will help melt the snow and ice. Sodium Chloride tablets can be purchased at your local hardware store.

Some people install heat tapes or cables on their roofs but the verdict is out on whether they are very effective or safe.  In properly installed tapes or cables pose risks of electrocution during installation as well as a fire hazard to the building from overheating while in use.

If you are not comfortable clearing ice dams on your own don’t hesitate to hire a professional.  But before you say “yes” to the professional, do your homework.  Get quotes from more than one company.  Check the company out with the Better Business Bureau and make sure the company you hire is licensed and bonded.

Check with your insurance agent regarding coverage of ice dams and the damage your home may have received from an ice dam.

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors, Inc.