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What to do in, and for, your poor house now that Oklahoma's winter storms have passed

Snow on the roof of an Edmond home from an earlier snow storm. Ice damming can result from storms like the ones last week, causing damage to the roof and leaks inside the house. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Snow on the roof of an Edmond home from an earlier snow storm. Ice damming can result from storms like the ones last week, causing damage to the roof and leaks inside the house. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

If you think your house and the things in it made it unscathed through last week's snowstorms and record-breaking cold, maybe not.

Some problems can take awhile to surface. Or notice.

The collective extent of the damage takes awhile to determine, as well. The state hasn't yet started tabulating losses but will soon be contacting insurance companies for storm-related data, said Liz Heigle, communications director for the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

As deep and wide as the frigid weather was across Oklahoma, people seem to be playing nice in dealing with the aftermath in home repair and filing insurance claims.

"We have not had any red flags," Heigle said. "What we have had is a lot of people calling in, saying, 'What do I do?'"

Some things to do

Look up and around. Ice damming can cause roof leaks in odd places not often seen or thought of in everyday life, such as roof decks, joists and eaves, and inside, ceilings and walls. Exterior walls, and interior walls that meet — especially where roof decks meet — are especially susceptible.

Repairs are usually covered by homeowners' insurance — if the ice and snow melt actually caused the damage and didn't just uncover it.

Think about everything that quit when your power went out.

Refrigerators and freezers stopped running, of course. Some people saved food from spoiling by taking it outside for the duration.

With the temperature so low outside, it didn't take long for the temperature inside to fall low enough to contribute to other kinds of damage. Like any pipes that froze and busted.

The standard homeowners policy requires that heat be maintained in the house for frozen pipes to be covered. But what happens when pipes can't be kept warm because of the power company?

"The homeowners policy will provide coverage," according to National Underwriter Co.'s FC&S Expert Coverage Interpretation. "A rolling brownout is not the fault of the insured; it is not the insured turning the thermostat too low when going to Florida for the winter or otherwise not winterizing the house in some way."

Keeping the house warm doesn't always keep pipes from busting, the insurance industry education-training-media company notes.

"Remember, heat should never be set below 55 in order to prevent pipes from freezing. Having said that, in areas where homes may not be well insulated, even keeping the heat running, opening the cupboards and keeping the water running in severely cold temperatures may not be enough to prevent frozen pipes. As long as the insured is responsible and does his best to keep things warm, there should be coverage."

• Do some research.

Find details on coverage for winter storms from the Oklahoma Insurance Department at

Consult the department's Winter & Ice Storm Recovery Guide at

• Beware of mold.

Wherever there was water, there could be toxic mold. Homeowners insurance generally covers mold remediation if mold was caused by a covered peril, a sudden and accidental incident such as ice damming or frozen pipes.

"Mold can hide behind walls and underneath floors and not be initially detected," according to AdvantaClean, a national company with a franchise in Oklahoma City, helpfully adding: "Mold can make you very sick and even kill you" — after symptoms that can develop quickly or over time, including severe body aches, joint pain, nausea, chronic and sometimes serious breathing problems.

"Bleach can’t kill it," AdvantaClean says. "Applying bleach can actually promote more mold growth on porous surfaces. A more effective treatment is an antimicrobial mixture made up of household items such as hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda ... People at risk: The very young, the very old, people with compromised immune systems. Mold can be deadly among these groups of people.

"Mold is everywhere and it’s impossible to get rid of it. However, mold spores will not grow if you get rid of moisture."

Real Estate Editor Richard Mize edits The Oklahoman’s Real Estate section, and covers housing, construction, commercial real estate, and related topics for the newspaper and Contact him at Please support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a subscription at today.

Richard Mize

Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked... Read more ›