One year later, windstorm's effects still felt in San Gabriel Valley
Posted: 11/30/2012 08:35:38 PM PST Updated: 11/30/2012 09:12:44 PM PST
This home on Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena Friday, November 30, 2012 is still red-tagged, or considered uninhabitable, after it sustained severe windstorm damage one year ago. Neighbors say the damaged home is an eyesore and hope the property will be repaired and cleaned up as soon as possible. (SGVN/Photo by Walt Mancini)
PASADENA - Heather Flores and her family lost nearly everything they owned after a huge tree toppled onto their house as a result of fierce winds that pummeled the San Gabriel Valley one year ago today.
Two of her children were sleeping on the living room floor when the tree crashed into their Cedar Street home and through the attic above. Neighbors had to help Flores, her husband Carlos and their three children escape through a window.
The home, owned by her father-in-law, is undergoing a complete remodel, but Flores and her husband have bought a new house in the area and don't expect to return.
"I came so close to losing my husband and kids," Flores said this week. "The five of us got out. We left everything behind. It was a matter of starting over.
"To look back and see a year later, to see that we're all okay, this stuff just doesn't matter. ... We could have lost so much more and didn't."
The Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2011, windstorm downed hundreds of power poles, thousands of trees and caused more than $34 million in public sector damages in the Los AngelesCounty area. Nearly a half-million residents were without power, some for more than a week.
Many San Gabriel Valley cities, including Pasadena, Temple City, Arcadia, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena and Alhambra, declared states of emergency. West Covina, Irwindale, Baldwin Park, Glendora and Azusa also saw significant damage or major power outages.
While some affected residents have been able to put the devastation behind them, others are still mourning their losses, making home repairs or fighting their insurance companies for compensation.
The Flores' home was one of 14 structures the city red-tagged, or deemed uninhabitable, from the wind damage. Another 38 structures in Pasadena, including some businesses, were deemed partly uninhabitable.
Today, one Pasadena home on the 1700 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard remains red-tagged though several homes are still under construction, Pasadena building official Sarkis Nazerian said. The property owner, who could not be reached this week, told city officials he's still negotiating with his insurance company to pay for the repairs, he said.
"As far as improvements of the property concerned, he's done absolutely nothing," said neighbor Ed Herman, who owns a three-unit apartment complex next door. "It's an eyesore in the neighborhood."
At Hudson Gardens Apartments - where a large tree fell and split the affordable housing complex in two - Belen Martin, 80, was among the residents in the building's 41 units that had to immediately evacuate. Miraculously, no one was injured and four dozen residents were transported to Oakwood Village apartments in Los Angeles, where they stayed for six months at no charge until the building was repaired.
When Martin was allowed to briefly go into her apartment the day after the storm, she noticed that much of her jewelry, a Chinese vase and other expensive items were missing, despite 24-hour security provided by a security company. Martin, who did not file a police report or have renters' insurance, said the stress over the losses caused her blood pressure to spike until her doctor convinced her she was lucky to be alive.
"I'm just thankful to God that we are not dead, even though I lost a lot of things," Martin said.
Two residents in the complex submitted claims for missing items but they were rejected by the company's third-party administrator, said Cindy Duffy, a spokeswoman for AIMCO, which owns and manages the building. AIMCO, she added, did cover all the costs resulting from the windstorm damage.
Jon Pride, a landscape architect, thought it would be a no-brainer to get his insurance company to pay the cost of replacing the wind-damaged roof of his Pasadena home.
Pride said the windstorm blew off some of his shingles but nearly all were lifted and broken loose from the seal, requiring the entire roof to be removed and replaced at a cost of about $14,000. To his dismay, the insurance company, has offered him a net payment of $750 after his $1,000 deductible, arguing the roof was "in extremely deteriorated condition and has exceeded its life expectancy."
"It's just the idea you have to battle the insurance company to do what's right," Pride said.
Others were disappointed they didn't receive compensation from Southern California Edison for power outage claims.
Rick Moses of South Pasadena said when the power came on at his house after a five-day outage, the surge fried his dishwasher, an electric cooktop range, five light dimmer switches and the controller for a treadmill pool. He said damage amounted to roughly $2,800 but SCE denied his claim. He also lost when he took the case to small claims court earlier this year.
"I truly believe that they do have fault on this," Moses, vice president of a construction company, said. "It's a textbook example from a risk-management playbook. Deny, deny, deny responsibility."
An SCE spokeswoman said the utility is typically not liable for losses associated with outages resulting from "acts of nature" but was committed to "giving each customer's claim careful attention."
The utility declined to release any data about claims related to the 2011 windstorm.