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Hurricane Irene - All posts tagged Hurricane Irene

  • Sep 7, 2011
    5:20 PM ET

    Buyer Beware: Flooded Cars Flood the Market

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    Recent storms have given used car buyers nationwide a new reason to be cautious.

    Vehicles damaged by floodwaters — as seen recently on the East Coast with hurricanes Irene and Lee, and earlier this year with record rains along the Mississippi — often turn up for sale within weeks . It’s not just a local problem either. Unscrupulous middlemen may knowingly buy the damaged cars from consumers or insurers and move them to other states to find unsuspecting buyers, warns Phil Reed, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com. Those damaged cars may even show up on big used car lots.

  • Sep 7, 2011
    3:29 PM ET

    East Coasters Offer Deals to Lure Tourists

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    Updated, Sept. 20, 6.00pm: This post has been updated to reflect changing travel offers.

    Now that Irene is long gone, the power’s back on and the water is safe to drink, hotels and vacation rentals along the East Coast are offering some tempting deals to woo back travelers scared by headlines like “Hotel Guests Flee North Carolina Coast.” “The damage was really very isolated,” says Margo Metzger, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Division of Tourism, a state where tourism accounts for nearly 5% of the economy. “Around 270 miles out of 320 miles of coast are open for business.” She says rates are starting to come down dramatically in September.

    Deals are coming in thick and fast. Along the 100-mile coast of the Outer Banks, N.C, Village Realty currently offers a selection of vacation properties at a 10% discount. Atlantic Realty is offering a 15% discount on full week rental properties on the North Carolina coast or offering four nights with a fifth night free; you can also get over 20% off on a five-bedroom house on the ocean. It has fall specials between September 7 and October 1 for only $550 per week for a three-bedroom condo with ocean views. Beach Realty & Construction have a selection of offers on coastal vacation homes along the Outer Banks with some at nearly half-price: one two-bedroom rental beside the ocean are $495, about half the usual rate.

  • Sep 1, 2011
    4:15 PM ET

    Slow Sales Post-Irene Could Spur Fall Deals

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    Plenty of stores were slow to reopen post-Irene. That, and their slow traffic now as consumers recover, could mean better deals later this fall.

    While supermarkets and hardware stores are the typical beneficiaries of a pre-storm economic boost as shoppers stock up on flashlights and bottled water, spending in a disaster’s aftermath is just as predictable. “It’s recovery and restaurants, and nothing else,” says Scott Bernhardt, the chief operating officer for Planalytics, a research firm that studies weather and business.

    Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe’s are usually the first to reopen. And as today’s Wall Street Journal reports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency often considers how many Waffle House restaurants in an area are open, whether they are serving a limited menu, and how big the crowds are when determining just how bad a particular storm was. “After something like Irene, people hit the fast-service restaurants like crazy,” says Bernhardt, who is among the estimated 400,000-plus Pennsylvania residents still without power. “I don’t go to the grocery store, because I can’t store the food.”

  • Aug 30, 2011
    5:25 PM ET

    With Irene Gone, the Clean-Up Begins

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    She wasn’t as bad a guest as we had feared. But Hurricane Irene still left a clean-up behind. The storm left most buildings without major damage, but with not a small amount of flooding. The hurricane made its way up the 1,100-mile stretch of the East Coast last week and around 100,000 people are expected to make claims of up to $4 billion, better than earlier worst-case scenarios of $15 billion.

    Experts say now is the time to familiarize yourself with the details of your homeowner’s insurance. Some possible pitfalls: Renters need separate rental insurance for their belongings, flood damage policy is not typically covered by homeowners insurance – see the National Flood Insurance Program for the next time – and you should always alert your insurer to any house renovations.

    While you assess the damage, here are some questions worth asking:

  • Aug 30, 2011
    10:49 AM ET

    Hurricane Irene: How Fast Did Your Airline Respond?

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    Hurricane Irene didn’t only empty the streets last week, it also emptied the skies.

    The country’s major airlines were under immense pressure trying to re-book flights for anxious customers as some 12,000 flights were canceled, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.com. But the length of time it took to get through to airlines varied dramatically: It took just under three minutes to get through to U.S. Airways by phone, but it took more than ninety minutes for American Airlines, according to a new survey, StellaService.com, a site that rates companies’ customer service performance. Tweeting was not the ideal way to contact most airlines. Delta Airlines responded to all their Tweets, on average, in 14 seconds, but Tweets at other airlines went unreturned.

    Industry representatives say airlines have made themselves more accessible during crisis situations. Steve Lott, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, says he doesn’t comment on individual surveys, but says airlines constantly updated their social networking sites and websites as soon as flight-change information was available. He says many airlines were also proactive and reached out to travelers via email, and added extra staff to field telephone calls from worried passengers. “Airlines started notifying passengers of operational changes and rebooking policies several days before the hurricane made landfall,” he says.

    Here are survey’s results:

  • Aug 29, 2011
    11:33 AM ET

    Thanks, Irene! Banks Offer Temporary Fee Reprieve

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    Irene did some serious destruction on her tour up the East Coast, but some banking customers won’t see extra damage in the form of account fees.

    Chase will waive select fees for account holders in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York — the three Irene-affected states where it has branches — through Sept. 4. Until then, those customers won’t be held liable for using another bank’s ATM ($2), overdrawing their checking account ($34 per transaction, up to three per day), using overdraft protection ($12), or paying late on a credit card, business or consumer loan. (On a credit card, that saves up to $35.)

    Wells Fargo will waive select fees for account holders in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York through Sept. 2. Consumers won’t pay for using another bank’s ATM ($3) or making an early withdrawal from a certificate of deposit (a minimum $25). A spokeswoman says customers with further hardship can call customer service for other assistance on a case-by-case basis.

  • Aug 26, 2011
    2:45 PM ET

    Hurricane Irene: Action Plan For Stranded Travelers

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    If you get stranded this weekend, it will be more “Lost” than “Gilligan’s Island.”

    Hurricane Irene will likely leave thousands of business travelers and vacationers stranded in lonely hotels far from home as more trains and flights are canceled. If you are unprepared, it will be anything but jolly, but travel and insurance experts say it’s still not too late.

    Allison Steinberg, a spokeswoman for JetBlue Airways, says the airline canceled 891 flights to/from cities in the New York and Boston area from Saturday through Monday. Travel expert Susan Foster, creator of SmartPacking.com, says it may now be best not to try beating Hurricane Irene back home.

    Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that all of New York’s mass-transit system will close this weekend and Amtrak has said it’s cancelling all trains south of Washington D.C. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. More train and flight cancelations are expected to follow.

    Here’s a plan of action for those who won’t be able to get home:

  • Aug 26, 2011
    6:00 AM ET

    Home Improvements To Save Your House From the Next Big Storm

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    From a protect-your-home standpoint, there are two ways to thumb your nose at Hurricane Irene and other natural disasters like her.

    Option One: Have an insurance policy that covers windstorm damage and flooding (or whatever natural disasters are typical in your area). Two, fortify your house so that should a disaster strike, the building has a better chance of making it through undamaged — which keeps you safe if you’re weathering in place better phrase? confusing, and gives you a home to come back to, if you’ve evacuated.

    Option Two comes with some financial incentives. As we reported earlier this year, more insurers are offering policy discounts:

  • Aug 25, 2011
    2:24 PM ET

    How to Hurricane-Proof Your Travel Plans

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    Her name is Irene, and she’s ruining your vacation.

    As soon as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dubbed the approaching Category 3 storm Irene on Aug. 20, consumers’ ability to shift their travel plans got more limited. But there’s still some recourse to change plans or get a refund for at least part of your trip.

    Steve Lott, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, says, “Be proactive. Start changing plans now.” Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo, advises customers to program their airline’s 800 number into their cell phones, act fast on hotel reservations (at least 24 hours in advance), stock up on any prescribed medications should you get stuck on vacation and pick your connecting airport wisely.

  • Aug 25, 2011
    1:49 PM ET

    Avoiding Irene: The Importance of Packing a ‘Go Bag’

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    First an earthquake, now a Category 3 hurricane — Mother Nature has given East Coasters plenty of incentive this week to rethink their emergency preparedness. But experts say that it’s a good idea in general to have a “go bag” of vital papers and other supplies ready if you need to leave home — fast — in any emergency situation.

    The number of storms, floods and other natural disasters reaching catastrophic levels — meaning they caused in excess of $25 million in damage — jumped 22% last year to an all-time high of 247, reports reinsurance firm Munich Re. This year is a contender to beat that, given crippling snowstorms across the Midwest and Northeast in January, spring tornadoes in the South and extensive flooding along the Mississippi. “You never know what could happen,” says James Judge, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory council. (He’s also executive director for Lake-Sumter EMS in Mount Dora, Fla.) “It’s always best to be ready.”

    A “go bag” should literally be grab-and go, Judge says, so it’s smart to collect the things you need when there’s no emergency in sight. Pack them in a plastic bin (available at any home goods store) and stash it under the bed or in a closet near your front door. A good kit can also double as a store if you need to weather a hurricane or other disaster at home.

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.