By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — Powerful May rains in Dallas and other areas of Texas effectively wiped out a longstanding Lone Star drought, but simply didn’t know when to stop afterward.
As it turns out, the month of May was the wettest ever in the history of Texas, averaging at least 7.54 inches, according to the state climatologist at Texas A&M University.
The result: flooding. Many other problems were indirectly caused, involving insects, roofing, wet rugs, air conditioning units, and malfunctioning roofs.
Local experts and business owners shared their thoughts this week on how some of these problems are being mitigated.
Chad Wall — an Allstate agency owner out of Plano — has a firm that insures many areas, including automobiles, homes, businesses and retirement.
Wall also sells flood insurance. Flooding made a huge resurgence this year thanks to the rains.
“We have seen floods in areas not even in a flood zone,” Wall said. “Most of them have happened in areas that don’t carry flood insurance.”
Todd Channon, a partner with the Waldman Brothers insurance company out of Dallas, said in the process of assessing clients’ needs, it occasionally comes up that their policies do not cover flooding.
“This brings to mind the need for that kind of coverage,” he said.
In this event, separate flood insurance policies can be purchased in that case, Channon said.
Homeowners’ insurance policies typically do not cover flooding created by storm water. It is, therefore, wise to determine the risk one’s property has of flooding, according to experts.
Determining if a home is at the bottom of a hill, if it is at the low point of a road, or next to a storm drain channel or creek can do this.
Mortgage companies typically require flood insurance for homes or businesses in a floodplain.
According to FEMA, people who live in the 21,800 communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program and in implementing floodplain management measures are eligible to purchase flood insurance. This number includes Dallas, Denton, Rockwall and Tarrant counties.
In addition to causing floods, the rains also compromised a few roofs, said Jay Crystal, insurance agent who works out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area at TWFG Insurance Services of The Woodlands.
“In Texas, the main claims I see are for those roofs,” Crystal said. “Roofs can be older, so it important to have them checked out and replaced.”
Crystal advised caution when it comes to maintenance.
“That’s it in a nutshell: Maintain your roofs,” Crystal said. “A lot of people try to wait until the hailstorms start coming down to try to fix them.”
Maintenance and care before the fact can go a long way toward preventing a bad problem, said Jason Nyardy of Broward Factory Service, which maintains AC systems.
Nyardy estimates that as much as 90 percent of the air conditioning failures he has to deal with are caused by a lack of maintenance — for instance, freezing up because of the filter clogging because no one has sufficiently cleaned it.
“We’re talking about the silliest things that the simplest maintenance would take care of,” Nyardy said. “If neglected long enough, these things turn into major repairs.”
Many customers don’t realize a lack of maintenance voids any warranty, Nyardy said.
Insurance is available for air conditioning. There’s home warranty, service and maintenance arrangements, Nyardy said.
Nyardy said there are certain air conditioning issues to watch out for during heavy storms. Lightning is one and the air conditioning should be shut off whenever there are threats of storm-created electrical surges in the home.
Then there’s the threat of heavy water hitting the air conditioning unit, Nyardy said.
“I would recommend always putting a gutter on that side of the house so water is not dumping off the roof,” he said.
Rugs can attract water damage. Joe Kboudi, owner of Rug Mart in Dallas, spends time counseling customers how to dry them.
“This time of year we get all of these rains and people are always calling about that,” Kboudi said. “All year round we get something. A pipe, for instance, could break during a winter freeze.”
Timing is crucial to fix matters after rugs get wet. Experts say a failure to move quickly could result in mold growth that ruins flooring, furniture, carpets and walls. It could also possibly lead to poor indoor air quality and subsequent respiratory problems such as asthma. So prevention of mold is paramount.
Khoudi, meanwhile, said if customers who purchased from him call in a few days, he could counsel them how to stretch a rug, remove the water and replace the pad so everything gets dry.
When it comes to problems maintaining windows and gutters, Dan Fowler, owner of Window Man Window Cleaning in Cedar Hill, concedes that the weather wasn’t as catastrophic for his company as it was as others.
“Now true, the rain made it difficult for us to clean the windows because it was wet and muddy … but a lot of times our storms took place during the evenings and at night,” he said. “So we would have good luck cleaning in the mornings. A bunch of it has stayed out of our way.”
Clogged gutters, incidentally, can be a hazard during flooding. Experts say when gutters fill up, they start to overflow and redirect water toward vulnerable parts of the house.
The result can be mosquitoes, erosion, rust, roof and foundation damage and damage to the gutter and roof support system from additional weight.
And yes, perhaps one of the most immediate and annoying consequences of rain is mosquitoes — known to carry West Nile Virus and the Chikungunya Virus.
Crystal Woods, manager of Mosquito Abatement for the Dallas Code Compliance Department, urged residents to be vigilant in a recent announcement.
She suggested insect repellents, long sleeves and pants, and loose and light-colored clothing when outside, staying inside at dusk and dawn — when mosquitoes are most active — and draining standing water and installing or repair window screens.
Dallas residents also are urged to take precautions against mosquito bites by reducing outdoor activity during early morning and nighttime hours, according to Woods’ report.
Residents who are outside during these times should cover their arms and legs and use a mosquito repellent, she stated.
Ron Dawson, a certified entomologist (scientist who studies insects) who owns Dallas-Fort Worth Pest Control out of Dallas, said the rains have brought out numerous insects including mosquitoes, gnats, fleas, ticks, fire ants, and spiders.
Termites, on the other hand, seem to be on the decline and crickets are more of a late summer issue.
“Fire ants have a way of surfacing when the ground gets saturated,” Dawson said. “After a long hard rain you see ants anywhere and that’s because they don’t want to drown and live above ground.”
Mosquitoes are increasingly annoying because they seem to develop resistance to poisons.
Dawson advised those who lean toward home remedies when fighting bugs after a storm to rethink their strategy.
“People want to use vinegar and sugar and flour and those things don’t work,” he said. “There are a lot of treatments available that are green and relatively safe by EPA standards that are very effective.”
Rick Vessels, manager of Eco Safe Pest Control out of Dallas, agreed that ants and mosquitoes have been huge problems for customers. But they’re not the only problem insects.
“There are also millipedes,” he said. “There are rolly-pollies and the big … roaches. There have even been a few comments about snakes being forced out of their normal habitat, — but we usually refer those calls elsewhere.”