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Officials warn residents to take precautions against storms

Prompted by damaging storms this week and a public awareness campaign, state officials are urging residents to be prepared for potential storms and be cautious when dealing with the after effects.

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“Not only are citizens encouraged to know what to do before, during and after severe thunder and lightning storms, but they should prepare for all summer weather hazards, including tornadoes and floods,” Ohio Department of Public Safety personnel wrote in a statement.

A low-grade tornado was confirmed near Brunswick in Medina County on Monday evening of this week, which is also National Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

Strong thunderstorms and high winds downed trees and caused power outages throughout Ohio and prompted the National Weather Service to issue flash flood warnings Tuesday for 28 counties in northern Ohio. Logan County was not among the counties listed in the Tuesday flood warning.

The public safety officials remind residents that summer is peak season for thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes, and that preparedness for all severe weather is crucial.

The following severe weather safety measures are recommended:

• Be informed and watch for developing thunderstorms. Listen to local weather reports and know the difference between storm watches and storm warnings. Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert that sounds and notifies when hazardous weather is in or near your area.

• Have a plan. Before a flood, plan and practice an evacuation route. Know ahead of time where to go and have a disaster supply kit prepared in the case of an evacuation. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

• Avoid flooded areas, especially if the water is flowing quickly. Never attempt to cross flowing streams as road beds may be washed out under the flood waters. Never drive or walk through flooded roadways or flowing flood water and if a bridge or overpass is closed, do not attempt to cross it.

• Practice safety after the storm or flood. Listen to local alerts and warning systems to receive information on assistance that may be provided by the county, state or other organizations.

• Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash flooding could occur. Only return home when authorities indicate it is safe.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also warned residents to be cautious when dealing with contractors who may offer unsolicited bids or contracts to repair damages caused by a storm.

“The summer months are a peak time for home improvement, and it’s important to be especially cautious after a storm,” Attorney General DeWine said in a prepared statement. “Following severe weather, fly-by-night contractors may descend on a community offering great deals but doing poor work or nothing at all.”

Some contractors track storms, travel to affected communities and knock on doors to offer their services to homeowners who experience damage, according to the attorney general’s office. They may claim they can complete the work immediately and ask the consumer to make a large down payment or to sign over their insurance check, but they end up doing little or shoddy work.

The attorney general recommends that homeowners research contractors’ background before agreeing to hire them to complete repairs. The following precautions are also recommended:

• Research a home improvement contractor before signing any contract. Obtain the name, address and phone number of any contractor agreeing to do work. Ask for identification from the company’s representative and request and contact references. Check for consumer complaints with the attorney general and the Better Business Bureau before allowing a contractor to begin the work.

• Be cautious when someone shows up unsolicited. Do not accept services from a contractor who refuses to provide proper identification, does not have a permanent place of business, cannot provide references or insists on a large upfront payment.

• Get written estimates from at least three different contractors and refuse to do business with a company that does not provide a written estimate.

• Keep in mind that a consumer generally has three business days to cancel door-to-door sales. A business must notify the customer of this right and cannot begin services until after the three-day period has ended.

• Don’t sign over an insurance check to a contractor. If the work is being financed, arrange for a certificate of completion with the bank, which will pay the contractor for each completed stage.

• Get a sworn statement that all materials have been paid for and all subcontractors have been paid. This will help protect the homeowner from liens that may be placed on a property if the contractor fails to pay all suppliers and subcontractors.

If a vehicle is damaged in a storm, contact the insurance company to determine what damages are covered. When taking a vehicle to a repair shop, the consumer has the right to a verbal or written estimate if the anticipated cost of the repair or service is more than $25. In general, if the cost will be more than 10 percent of the original estimate, the shop must get approval for additional costs.

Ohioans who have questions about a contractor or those who believe they have been treated unfairly should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or (800) 282-0515.

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