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Crashing Trees

Before Isabel hit, Shikha Saxena was worried about the tree in the front yard, right outside her two children's bedroom windows, so Thursday night the children slept in her room in the rear of the house. Then the wind and rain came and the backyard tree came crashing down on her bedroom roof.

"My daughter sensed something, she said 'mom someone is walking on the deck,' and then it crashed. I put my kids in my room, I was afraid of that tree," she said, pointing to the front yard, "I was not expecting this tree to fall."

The tree knocked a few shingles off and wrecked the skylight on the Saxena's roof but did not do enough damage to make the house uninhabitable. First, they called the insurance company, who contacted a tree service, and Saxena took the day off Monday waiting for the tree service.

"Thursday we could not get through. My husband got the automated service on Friday. We don't have a problem with it [insurance company]. They are helping us," Saxena said.

Monday, Sept. 22 was a busy day at the Fairfax State Farm Insurance office as well. With the power out on Friday, Peter Crosby came in over the weekend but calls continued to come in Monday.

"We've probably had as many claims as a severe ice storm," he said.

At State Farm, they have a mobile catastrophe claim system to expedite issuing claim numbers. The insurance agent on the phone makes an initial judgment from the homeowner's description of the tree damage.

"We put them in a category for what we think. I tell them to call a roofer and get two estimates," he said.

If it happened to be a neighbor's tree, the homeowner who sustained the damage is still liable. That includes fences.

"A tree falling down is an act of God. We will pay for damage to the fence and removal of the tree," Crosby said.

Most of Crosby calls were minor damage, like the Saxena's, and required no overnight accommodations. But there were a few major incidents.

"We've had a couple trees-through-the-house calls," Crosby said.

For those incidents, State Farm covers most of that as well.

"We'll pay for hotel and meals over what they would spend at home," he added.

IN A NUMBER of occasions, the Red Cross stepped in after Isabel and took care of hurricane victims in Washington D.C., Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery, Prince George's, Loudoun and Prince William counties, according to Red Cross spokesperson Courtney Prebich.

"We had about 400 people that stayed in our shelters the night of the storm," Prebich said.

Its last shelter, at Johnson Jr. High School in Washington D.C. closed on Sunday night, Sept. 21. In Virginia, the Red Cross had shelters at Edison, Chantilly, Marshall and Walt Whitman High Schools during the storm. In Fairfax City, they had a shelter at Fire Station #3.

"Each office works with the local governments in that jurisdiction," Prebich added.

On Monday evening, the Red Cross meals truck was still making rounds in Alexandria where flooding was a problem.

"You have people that suffered a lot of flood damage. We've been providing them with meals," she said.

For more information on the Red Cross efforts, call 866-GET-INFO.