Three seconds of madness two months ago during the Revere Tornado has led neighbors off the Parkway near the skating rink on an emotional roller coaster that has emptied out into a bureaucratic nightmare – with insurance money coming in slowly and damaged homes – still mostly unrepaired – facing the cold fact of an approaching winter.
Some families have given up the fight, boarding up their homes and resolving to live elsewhere until the winter passes. According to the Building Department, only one of the 13 structures deemed uninhabitable two months ago – NC Auto on Broadway – has received a permit for repairs. Meanwhile, those who can live in their houses, but have exposure due to open roofs waiting for insurance repair settlements, are getting nervous as the cold weather approaches.
What will they do when their home needs heating?
How will they complete outdoor repairs in blustery cold conditions?
On the Parkway, frustrations are mounting and anger is setting in. Few people would give their names, but many who had their homes damaged said they aren’t getting much action two months after the tornado and are very worried about how they will weather the winter.
Mayor Dan Rizzo said he is also growing frustrated by the blue tarps throughout the city that he thought would have been replaced by new roofs via insurance money.
“I have noticed that there are still way too many blue tarps on roofs than we’d like to see,” he said. “Our administration has been very clear since the storm hit back on July 28th that we are here if we can be of help in any way. Thus far, we have not heard from many of the residents impacted regarding situations surrounding repairs or reconstruction.”
He stressed that they plan to begin helping homeowners with the Tornado Fund very soon.
“We continue to review and begin the processing of requests for funding as a result of the storm through our Tornado Relief Fund,” he said. “Applications now total close to 160. It is our intention to continue to raise funds and strive to meet as many of these requests and needs as possible.”
Some neighbors have been lucky – in terms of repairs and in terms of the tornado.
Jimmy DePaulo lives on the Parkway and said he just escaped the winds from the tornado – prying open a door to his bedroom that was being held shut by strong winds just in time to escape exploding glass and flying debris.
Only now, two months later, is he able to talk about it.
“Sometimes you freeze in those situations, but I reacted on instinct and it saved me from really getting hurt,” he said. “For a week, I laid in bed replaying it all in my head. I had nightmares about it. I didn’t talk about it for a long time, but I can talk about it now that I’ve had time to think about it.”
DePaulo has also been one of the lucky ones to get repairs started on his home. It has been a full-time job, he said, and many of his neighbors haven’t even been able to start repairs. Most of the homes on his block don’t look much different than they did in the aftermath, and some homes surrounding him on Taft Street are only beginning right now to get repairs.
“The bottom line is it’s going to cost me $10,000 to $15,000 out of my pocket, but I’m getting $100,000 in work done to my house, so I can’t complain,” he said. “I started two weeks ago and I’m one of the first. If anybody is going to wait, they’re going to be in a world of hurt because the cold weather is coming. How are these damaged houses going to survive the cold? Getting this done isn’t easy. You’ve got roofers, carpenters, plumbers and electricians. All these guys are coming and you have to organize them and bring them all together and get the job done before the winter comes.
“You don’t realize what you have to go through until you go through it,” he continued. “You can’t do the work by yourself. You have to hire someone. If I didn’t get the right contractor, it could have been a nightmare.”
DePaulo and his girlfriend, Donna Frost, hired a public adjustor, which is something that some people did to help them negotiate with the insurance companies. He said the adjustor did get him more money, but also took a 10 percent cut, so it might have been a wash.
He ended up getting $100,000 for his home, but it didn’t come without headaches.
For example, his roof was slate rock and the tornado ripped off the slate and sent it careening through the neighborhood like tiny daggers. He was advised to rip off the remaining slate, put down new plywood and shingle the roof. However, once down to the plywood, the insurance felt they didn’t want to pay for the wood because it had likely been damaged prior to the storm. That ignited a back and forth that had to be resolved before the work could be done.
“These are the things you have to go through; it can get really frustrating,” he said.
The other aspect is coordinating payments. Most insurance companies will give 30 to 40 percent up front to get the work started, but won’t pay the remaining claim until after the work is finished and approved.
“I’ve never been through this, and it’s a lot to deal with,” he said. “Some of the neighbors are just leaving their homes and coming back in six months or so.”
Meanwhile, in other parts of the city, insurance settlements have begun to roll in for the lesser-damaged structures.
Building Inspector Ben DeCristoforo said they expect to see hundreds of permits in the coming few months and have already seen a surge of activity in the last few weeks as the first payments come in.
“Things have gone relatively smooth so far and we’ll handle all of the inspections during the normal course of our work,” he said. “We did cut off the date for the free permits, but we’re going case by case on that.”