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Pennsylvania Insurance Department works to help victims of hailstorm

By Jennifer Joas, Reporter, JJoas@wfmz.com
69 News, follow: @69news, news@wfmz.com
Published On: May 23 2014 02:15:52 PM CDT
Updated On: May 23 2014 05:44:37 PM CDT

Homes across the region weren't spared by Thursday's hailstorm, with numerous cases of shattered windows and damaged siding.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -

Homeowners across Berks County are digging out and assessing damage from the severe hailstorm that hammered the area Thursday.

"It is devastating," said Jeff Woytovich, a homeowner in Wyomissing.

Woytovich is one of many who returned home from work to find his yard in disarray, broken windows on his house and garage and chunks of the roof ripped off.  

"It was really the type of scene you would see in a city that a tornado went through, or a hurricane. It was kind of surreal," said Woytovich.

But he is not alone. Berks Fire Water Restorations received more than 50 calls in 24 hours to survey homes and businesses in the area that were hit by the golf ball-sized hail.

"We have had obviously flooding. We have had ice damming, all kinds of things Mother Nature has dealt us with snow in October, but never to this severity with hail," said Jessica Prutzman, communications director for Berks Fire Water Restorations.

The company estimates thousands of dollars in damage in just the properties it has surveyed, and although his insurance company might cover it, Woytovich said he knows his garage, built in the 1920s, will never be the same, but he said he is just grateful his wife and four daughters were not injured in the hailstorm.

"It is humbling because what other people go through with hurricanes and tornadoes, I appreciate my life and where I live a lot more," said Woytovich.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department is taking steps to help people affected by the hailstorm.

The agency said Friday that it will allow out-of-state appraisers to speed property damage reviews and appraisals and expedite claims processing and payments.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Consedine urged Pennsylvanians in the affected areas to review their home and car insurance policies and contact their insurance carrier.

"Insurance is in place to provide coverage when the unexpected occurs," Consedine said. "Hail the size of baseballs falling from the sky was certainly out of the ordinary, but its damage to your home would be covered by a typical homeowner's insurance policy. Coverage for hail damage to your car is part of your auto insurance if you retain your comprehensive coverage."

Individuals with questions or complaints can call the department’s toll-free, consumer hotline at 877-881-6388.

The National Weather Service said hail, some reportedly the size of tennis balls, fell across parts of eastern Pennsylvania on Thursday, damaging vehicles and buildings.

Emergency management officials in Berks and Montour counties said they've received a flood of calls about damage but no reports of serious injuries.

The Berks County Commissioners announced Friday afternoon that they have directed the county's department of emergency services to begin collecting from municipalities information about the extent of uninsured damage in their areas.

The information, officials said, will allow them to assess whether the county is eligible to be included in a federal Small Business Administration disaster declaration.

The program could provide low-interest loans to individuals and businesses that suffered more than 40 percent uninsured losses, officials said.

More information is available by emailing berksdes@countyofberks.com.

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