Cleanup going full blast two weeks after Hurricane Sandy

Dump runs, basement cleanup and seawall, fencing and roof repairs have been running almost nonstop since Hurricane Sandy descended on southeastern Connecticut two weeks ago, but major work largely awaits the arrival of insurance adjusters and checks for homeowners.

Contractors around the region contacted Monday said many homeowners who can afford minor repairs decided to go ahead with the work even before insurance adjusters arrived. But some who have clients with major problems say homeowners are only just now beginning to hear from their insurance companies - and checks to pay for the damage are still weeks or months away.

Henry O'Reilly Jr., owner of O'Reilly Building & Remodeling in Mystic, said he has a customer on Pearl Street in Mystic with a basement full of water almost to the first floor, causing perhaps $40,000 in damages. But the homeowner heard from the insurance company for the first time Monday, O'Reilly said, and has yet to see an adjuster.

"If it freezes, the whole house is full of water," O'Reilly said.

"Everybody is waiting for adjusters," added Brad Ferraro, owner of Ferraro Masonry in Stonington.

Ferraro said he has been working to repair private seawalls around the region, many at Groton Long Point. He also has been called upon to clean out houses damaged by the storm, which sent up to 3 feet of water and piles of sand into the seasonal homes.

"I just throw everything out," Ferraro said. "I must have thrown out 100 wicker chairs."

Ferraro, who has been working six days a week and 10-hour days to deal with the detritus, added that he has requests to repair about 50 chimney caps knocked off by high winds, as well as 15 chimneys that toppled in the storm.

"There wasn't a lot of work around - now there is plenty," Ferraro said. "I'm backed up at least eight months (with masonry work)."

Dan Falkenstein, owner of Dan's Dump Runs in Groton, said the day off he took Sunday was his first since Hurricane Sandy. Falkenstein said he had to add an extra hand to the three-person crew that he normally employs to handle the dozens of dump runs he has done in Sandy's aftermath.

"We're swamped," he said.

The strangest cleanup he's done, according to Falkenstein, was at a house in the Lords Point section of Stonington that had a garage 500 feet from shore completely filled with seaweed.

Falkenstein said he has thrown out washers, dryers and a lot of cardboard boxes and tree debris.

"People are overwhelmed with the amount of stuff," he said. "People call us, and they are looking for help."

Meanwhile, companies that do major home repairs or build anew are largely waiting for calls. Denise Nott, owner of Nutmeg Building & Remodeling in Ledyard, and Dino Tudisca of Exterior Solutions in Bozrah, said they have yet to see much of an uptick in business after Sandy, though they are not exactly chasing after work because they already have plenty to do.

"We've had no calls for major things," Nott said.

David Preka, owner of Advanced Improvements in Mystic, said he has been dealing with a lot of fence problems and roofs damaged by trees. One roof at a Groton home crushed by a tree will cost up to $70,000 to repair, he added.

Preka said Sandy caused three times the damages that occurred last year during Tropical Storm Irene. He has geared up by hiring three more people at his growing business.

For now, however, Preka said he has been doing more estimates than repair work. Since Sandy, he has written at least five dozen estimates - 11 or 12 on Sunday alone, he said.

"We're ready to do everything as quickly as possible," Preka said.

Jim Williams, project manager at T.F. Buxton Ltd. of Stonington, said he has been doing a lot of work shoring up pilings underneath homes in Charlestown and South Kingstown, R. I., as well as removing sand and debris.

"The older cottages seem to have some issues," Williams said.

After the initial cleanup work is done, Williams said, homeowners will turn to engineers to develop new ways to fight mother nature before handing off plans that builders can then implement once insurance checks come through.

Nort Wheeler, owner of Mystic River Building Co., warned homeowners not to be too desperate to sign off on an insurance settlement, no matter how long it takes for an adjuster to arrive. He suggested that homeowners contact a good builder to give an estimate for repairs that includes an analysis of any structural damage that an adjuster may have missed.

Wheeler said home repairs can often cost dramatically more than what a representative of an insurance company is likely to offer - especially someone from out of state who doesn't make the proper adjustments for local labor and material costs.

"Insurance companies tend to settle claims quickly and for as little as possible," Wheeler said.


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