Hurricane Isaac has blown a big hole in my emergency fund
I can't believe how much this small storm is costing me.
We got power back at our house late Sunday night. It was the first time since Hurricane Isaac struck New Orleans on Aug. 29 that we were able to flip a switch and turn on the lights.
But the bills and financial problems continue to multiply. They've become scarier than the howling winds the night Isaac came ashore.
Isaac was not a strong storm. It was a Category 1 hurricane with maximum winds of 90 miles per hour.
Although it caused catastrophic flooding in Plaquemines Parish and St. John Parish, the damage in New Orleans was limited to toppled trees, downed power lines and scattered roof damage.
Most of us were prepared to be without power for a day or two, but no one expected a week or more.
Entergy, our local utility company, has been criticized since the beginning for its slow response. It took six days for a truck to even show up in our neighborhood. Some people still do not have electricity and may not get it until the end of the week.
We sweated it out in our house the first couple of nights. Then we spent a night at my mother's house, another night at a hotel and two nights at my father's house.
Living without power can be surprisingly expensive. You're so miserable in your house, you eat out all the time. You go through bags of ice, batteries and lots of water.
Temperatures reached the mid-90s here last week, and the humidity put heat indexes over 105 degrees.
We had to trash everything in our fridge and freezer, probably $200 worth of food.
A portable generator can help, but if you have one, you'll go through lots of gas. Some of my neighbors were spending more than $50 a day in fuel.
There's also a lot of cleanup to do. Fortunately, I could do everything myself, but many homeowners had to fork out a couple hundred bucks for yard cleanup and tree cutting.
The damage to our home was relatively minor, at least relative to what can happen in a hurricane.
Initially I figured we had about $1,500 worth of damage. Fortunately, we can wait to fix most of these problems. Water buckled our laminate floor, and we lost part of a fence and part of the patio roof. But we can wait a couple of months to fix these things.
What I'm growing worried about now could cost a lot more. At one point during the storm, driving rain sent water trickling down our wall and all over our kitchen floor. There's likely wet insulation inside there, and that can create mold.
I knew it could be a problem, but then I discovered mold all over our AC closet last night.
We might have to gut the entire room to the studs, rewire, insulate and then sheetrock it again. Based on previous work I've had done, I'm guessing this could run us $3,500 or more.
It was something we were going to have to do at some point, but we were hoping to put it off for a few more years.
Those of us who live in hurricane zones have a special "hurricane deductible."
Unlike a regular homeowners insurance deductible, the hurricane or named storm deductible is based on a percentage of the value of your home or your insured value.
So, with a $200,000 home and a 3% deductible, we could be on the hook for the first $6,000 of damage.
Things could have been worse, but what really bothers me is that we've had such an extended power outage for such a small storm. The humidity in our home exacerbated the damage.
Last night, as we were going to bed we discovered the glass top on our dresser cracked.
A Category 5 storm like Hurricane Katrina may only come around every decade or so, but there's a good chance we could face a strong tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane every couple of years. Now I have to wonder if a 10-day power outage could be the norm.
It makes me reevaluate my hurricane planning and my emergency fund. I used to see a generator as a luxury, but with a child it's a necessity.
Every year since Katrina struck in 2005 I said I was going to get one, but I can't put it off anymore. I'm buying a generator within the next two weeks. Maybe a small window AC unit, too.
That could set us back $1,000, but I consider it insurance against another extended power outage.
Despite all our expenses, we were lucky.
Having an adequate emergency fund means it’s a little easier to handle whatever nature throws at it.