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Chillicothe Times-Bulletin - Chillicothe, IL
  • For insurance adjusters, it's 'all hands on deck' in tornado aftermath

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  • WASHINGTON — Dave Schurtz's home at 710 Dallas St. was one of up to 1,000 homes in Washington affected by Sunday's tornadoes, and one of the many leveled.
    "Bad things happen to good people. It was just my turn," he said.
    Schurtz received a $5,000 check for emergency expenses within minutes of an American Family Insurance adjuster arriving on the scene of his destroyed home Tuesday afternoon, one of 40 homes the insurance company has deemed a total loss or heavily damaged.
    The 40 representatives from the company were called in from throughout the state and have processed 576 claims in central Illinois, a number American Family estimates could rise to 1,000 — as the fifth largest property insurer in the state.
    "In a situation like this it's all hands on deck," media relations manager Steve Witmer said.
    Adjusters work with about five families at a time, talking with families on the phone, meeting victims in temporary shelters and walking through damaged properties.
    "I tell a lot of customers, I hope you go through this once in your life and never again," Steve Stachnik, an American Family Insurance adjuster, said. "But as insurance adjusters we deal with fires and natural disasters on a daily basis."
    Kenneth and Beverly Fleeman first contacted the American Family call center a few hours after a tornado ravaged their neighborhood Sunday, leaving the brick home Kenneth built in 1965 one of the only structures standing on their block.
    Monday evening they had their first meeting with Stachnik to discuss the damage to their windows, shed and roof family members patched with tarps to keep falling rain out of the home.
    "The first thing the adjuster said to my parents was, 'Mr. and Mrs. Fleeman, you guys have very good insurance, and we are going to take care of you,' " their daughter Janet Johnson said.
    Storm victims can begin the insurance process by calling representatives from their company, visiting groups at Crossroads United Methodist Church or going to the 800 block of Lincoln Street, where authorities designated space in the parking lot of the old park district administration building for insurance companies to gather.
    Stachnik said residents can start to pick up and make temporary repairs to their properties as soon as they are able, as long and they're careful to document expenses for those repairs.
    "We'll sit down with them a lot of times they'll have photos already on their phones," he said.
    While the process started quickly, at least for some, estimates and payments can take weeks to process, while construction will last much longer.
    The Fleemans said they don't expect power to be restored to their home for four weeks, and hope pertinent repairs to the roof and window can be completed by that time.
    Page 2 of 2 - "I'm ready to be done. It's awful," Kenneth Fleeman said.
    Beverly Fleeman added, "It feels like we're making some headway, but it's going to be a long process."
    Laura Nightengale can be reached at 686-3181 or lnightengale@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauranight.

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