Hurricane Irene caused about $1.5 billion in destruction, destroying or damaging over 400 homes in Connecticut and 700 homes in Vermont. Numbers were even more overwhelming in North Carolina where 1,100 homes were destroyed or damaged, according to Governor Beverly Perdue, and in many other states along the eastern seaboard.
This weeks Texas wildfires continue to set records, razing hundreds of homes and tens of thousands of acres. More than 5,000 people have evacuated to avoid the flames and the 16-mile-wide wildfire in Bastrop County in Central Texas is the worst wildfire in Texas history. The wildfire will likely destroy additional homes as the number of homes destroyed across the state tops 1,000.
What to Do After a Disaster
More deaths typically occur after a hurricane than during one, so be extremely careful when returning home after any natural disaster and only do so after authorities have deemed your area safe. Have a qualified electrician or technician inspect the wiring in your home, reconnect utilities and relight pilot lights if you do not know how to safely do so.
In the case of a total loss of your home, or in the case of an extended stay away from your home due to severe damage, be sure to alert your utility company and your energy service company or ESCO (also known as a retail electric provider or REP). Even if local officials, police officers and firefighters may know that your home was destroyed, your utility company may continue to bill your account for estimated usage, or usage estimated in accordance with your typical usage patterns, whether or not youre living in your home.
A lot of customers assume that the utility company knows that the electric account will just close since the home was destroyed. That is not the case they need to call in, says Rachel Rodriguez, customer service manager for Spark Energy. Rodriguez says that a retail electric company can submit requests on behalf of customers to the utility to electronically notify them to stop service to the residence in case the customer is unable to reach the utility company directly.
Once everything is shut off, an inspector from the county or city will need to inspect the premises to be sure its safe to begin rebuilding. At that time, youll need to call your utility to set up a temporary meter for your contractors needs. Check with your county or city government on what types of inspections are required to begin rebuilding and to move back in. Once the home is inspected and passed, youll need to contact the utility to set up permanent service and youll be able to select an ESCO or REP.
Special Disaster Assistance
If youre a Spark Energy customer, well be happy to help accommodate your needs after a natural disaster. We understand that it can be a stressful time and will do everything we can to help make your transition as smooth as possible. If youve been displaced because of a natural disaster, please contact our customer service department and we can take your situation into account and help you accordingly, whether you need to relocate temporarily or permanently.
Weve compiled a list of utilities in the Houston area and Central Texas in case you need to contact your utility company. Please note that Spark Energy is unable to assist non-Spark Energy customers with move-outs or customers not within our service area. We are also unable to assist customers with permitting, inspection, or rebuilding please contact your local government or insurance company for that information. The information below is provided for your convenience.
Spark Energy Customer Service:
- Phone: 877.547.7275
- Toll Free Fax: 877.374.8007
- Email: email@example.com
East Coast Utility Contact Info for Hurricane Irene Areas: http://bit.ly/IreneOutage
– CenterPoint Energy:
- Area: Greater Houston Area
- Customer Service: 713.207.2222 or 800.332.7143
- Report Downed Lines: 713.207.2225
- Website: http://www.centerpointenergy.com
- Outage Map: http://gis.centerpointenergy.com/outagetracker/index.html
– Texas-New Mexico Power-TNMP:
- Area: Friendswood, League City, Dickinson, Alvin, La Marque, Texas City, Angleton, Brazoria, West Columbia, Sweeny
- Report Outage: 888.866.7456, option 2
- Report Downed Lines: 888.866.7456, option 1
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tnmp
- Website: http://www.tnmp.com
- Service Area Map: http://www.tnmp.com/about/service-area-map/index.htm
– American Electric Power-AEP Texas:
- Area: Matagorda, Wharton, Colorado Counties & South
- Report Outages: 877.373.4858
- Report Outage Online: https://www.aeptexas.com/outages/report/
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/aeptexas
- Website: http://www.aeptexas.com
- Outage Map: https://www.aeptexas.com/outages/
– Entergy Texas (Not in Spark Energy Service Area):
- Area: Bryan/College Station, Navasota, Hempstead, Magnolia, The Woodlands, Conroe, Liberty, Cleveland, Huntsville, Beaumont, Port Arthur and east to the Louisiana border
- Customer Service and Emergencies: 800.ENTERGY (800.368.3749)
- Report Outage: 1.800.9OUTAGE (800.968.8243)
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/EntergyTEX
- Website: http://www.entergy-texas.com/
– San Bernard Electric Cooperative-SBEC (Not in Spark Energy Service Area):
- Area: Hempstead, Prairie View, Bellville, Waller, Sealy, Columbus
- Report Outage: 800.364.9171
- Outage Map: http://126.96.36.199/Outages/
Houston-Area Permitting and Construction Information:
– Harris County Public Infrastructure Department:
– Montgomery County Environmental Health & Permitting:
- Website: http://www.mctx.org/departments_d-k/departments_e/environmental_health/permitting.html
- Phone: 936.539.7836 or 281.364.4200 ext 7836
- Fax: 936.538.8288 or 936.788.8388
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Grimes County Environmental Permits:
- Website: http://www.co.grimes.tx.us/ips/cms/countyoffices/environmentalpermits.html
- Phone: 936.873.4496 (Debbie Stringer, Representative)
- Phone: 936.873.4495 (Martha McCleney, Assistant)
- Email: email@example.com
– Waller County Permitting and Construction:
- Website: http://www.wallercounty.org/construct.php
- Phone: 979.921.9059 ext 23
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Central Texas Utilities (Not in Spark Energy Service Area):
– Austin Energy:
- Area: Austin to Onion Creek, Bee Cave, Hudson Bend, Anderson Mill
- Customer Care: 512.494.9400
- Report Outage: 512.322.9100
- Report Outage Online: https://my.austinenergy.com/outagereporting/AccountLookup.do
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AustinEnergy
- Outage Map: https://my.austinenergy.com/outages/
– Bastrop Power & Light:
- Phone: 512.321.2601
- Fax: 512.331.2623
- Customer Service: 512.332.8830
- Website: http://www.cityofbastrop.org/departments/power_and_light/index.html
Central Texas Permitting and Construction:
– City of Austin Building Permits:
- Website: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/help/permits.htm
- Phone: 311
– Bastrop County Permits:
Governor, Feds Vow to Rebuild Irene-Damaged Conn., Houston Chronicle, September 5, 2011.
Vt. Gov Seeks Vacation Homes for Flood Victims, Associated Press, September 6, 2011.
Schumer Tours Irene Damage, Promises Fight for FEMA Aid, www.lohud.com, September 5, 2011.
Hurricane Irene Relief Fund Estimated at $1.5bn, Guardian, September 6, 2011.
Irene Destroyed More Than 1,100 Homes, N.C. Governor Says, Associated Press, August 30, 2011.
Disastrous Texas Wildfire Now Worst in State’s History, Time, September 6, 2011.