The Eye of the Storm

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Even those who pooh-pooh the whole global warming argument have to admit that the world is facing totally new challenges on the weather front. Hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, storm surges – you name it and you can bet your boots that someone, somewhere, is experiencing it.

Bad weather is a fact of life, but the intensity of recent storms is what is beginning to scare us. Last week, large parts of the UK were at the mercy of these changing patterns and as the clean-up operations began in earnest, it became pretty clear just how badly some citizens had been affected.

Wind speeds of up to 233k/ph lashed some areas and this, coupled with heavy rain, left two dead and led to thousands of homes being without electricity. Chaos reigned for travellers as trains and flights across Scotland were cancelled, and numerous properties were swept into the sea by the biggest storm surge to batter the coast in decades.

Many were forced to stand and watch as their homes and most of their possessions were washed away, with at least one poor chap admitting that his insurance policy wouldn't be covering the damage. The storm surges in the UK were the biggest that country had experienced since 1957, but major advances in our ability to read and predict the intensity of severe weather undoubtedly saved lives.

South Africa may not have faced devastation on this scale, but a violent hailstorm that smacked into Gauteng last week caused much damage to homes and vehicles. The hailstones in some areas were the size of tennis balls and smashed roof-tiles, windows and car windscreens, causing chaos. The cost is still being counted, but the damage is expected to run into the millions of Rands.

While there is not really much one can do to prevent damage when a freak storm of this nature strikes, homeowners should ensure that their insurance policies cover them for every eventuality. Losing a roof and then discovering that the insurance company won't be funding the costs of the repair because of a clause in the agreement can be financially devastating.

On the subject of insurance, is it never wise for anyone other than a professional to inspect the damage to a roof and it is highly recommended that homeowners either call a handyman to assess the damage or wait for the insurance company's assessor to conduct a site inspection. Accidents do happen and it's better to be safe than sorry when tackling repairs of this nature.

If the global warming fundis are to be believed, extreme weather is going to occur much more frequently in future. While South Africans don't generally have to deal with tornadoes, hurricanes and the like, heavy rain, strong winds and hailstorms with bigger hailstones could well end up becoming a common phenomenon.

While one can’t stop a deluge of enormous hailstones, homeowners should have their roofs inspected regularly to check for broken or loose tiles and other potential problems. They should also keep gutters clear of leaves and other debris. But perhaps most importantly, the wise homeowner will check and double check his insurance policy to ensure he is well covered against storm damage.

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