The Forgotten Post-Flood Post

I just found this draft on my blog site. I wrote it on 14 February 2021 and then forgot about it:

As we have come to understand, anti-covid-19 vaccinations are progressing rather slower than all of us across the globe had hoped. Although my husband will soon receive his second jab, my age group has still not been able to schedule their vaccinations. We have now been in self-imposed isolation for a little over 11 months and we are reconciled with the obvious fact that we will have to wait a few more months before we can ever so carefully tiptoe back into our travel personae. Or not.

The flooding of the Charente river I told you about, actually forced an unscheduled vacation on us. GRDF, France’s natural gas authority, cut off the gas to the houses along several flooded streets. They were kind enough to send a txt to my phone concerning this significant action which I unfortunately missed because we were eating dinner at the time, hence our boiler confusion on Saturday morning described in my previous post.

We made it through the weekend in multiple layers of woollens and gritted teeth while watching the waters rise in our front garden. But, it being winter and all, the indoor temps eventually registered a mere 12.5ºC/54ºF forcing us to relocated to a hotel in town. Everything surrounding this unexpected “vacation” was more or less problematic, above all considering the covid-19 situation and our ages. Granted, we live in an area little affected by the virus, but all it takes is one carrier breathing on you … which was the main reason we declined settling in the Red Cross shelter for flood victims set up near our home. Additionally, our musculo-skeletal degeneration is such that sleeping for an undetermined period of time on a cot is an iffy proposition … On the other hand the hunt for a hotel with meal service, which was needed because the lockdown had closed the restaurants in town, was concluded rather quickly. There was only one, a rather posh château-spa affair overlooking, what else, the river Charente. Why not search further afield? Well, the flood had trapped our designated long-distance car in its garage which left us with my little C-Zéro electric car with a range of roughly 80 clicks in such cold weather. Charging stations are still few and far between in our rural area, thus it was imperative to stay close to home. We did score a last minute special offer at the hotel, but it was still pretty costly. Oh well.

Wet hotel terrasse overlooking the river

Checking into a hotel during a pandemic was a weird and scary situation. The receptionist resided behind a large acrylic shield, pump-bottles of gel hydroalcoolique inviting a quick rub of the hands were distributed every few meters and a one-way-guest-circulation system was achieved through an elevator-up & stairs-down principle. Staircases and hallways were eerily empty …

Room cleaning happened only upon request, and it required guests to leave the room and stay away for at least two hours (loitering in the drizzle on the terrace, eating croissants from a nearby bakery) so that the crew could thoroughly air the premises. Bar and meal services were available over the phone with masked delivery to the room. No spa service, naturally. Oh well.

Fast forward to 14 July 2021 -> Five months have passed without a word.

After the river crested, nearly 2.6 m/8.53 ft higher than its regular January level, it took four days for the water to recede enough for the authority to reconnect our gas main. By then, the temperature in the house had dropped to barely 11ºC/51ºF and it took pretty much a full day to be warm and cozy again in our home. The mess left behind in the garden and in our barns was considerable. But we are fortunate that the elevated position of the house itself makes it highly unlikely – knock on wood!! – that it too will be flooded during our lifetime. Unless the ever increasing extrem conditions create veritable tsunamis rolling down the Charente toward the sea …

The scissor handles in the picture above indicate the high water mark at our gate: 92 cm/36 in! When the government declared our area a national disaster zone, it gave me the brilliant idea to déclarer un sinistre, to file a claim with our home insurance provider in the hope of a refund toward our not insubstantial hotel bill. Like all bureaucratic processes in France, it took a few months to come to fruition.

An independent assessor came to assess the damage in great detail. After a goodly hour of assessing, the electronic form on his tablet indicated that we were eligible for a compensation for our used furniture that were stored for resale in the barn and that the water rendered useless, as well as an allowance for professional cleaning and disinfecting services. He also said he would inquire in regard to the hotel bill, but that it was up to a different department. Of course it was.

A couple of weeks later the rep of the cleaning outfit came by to figure out exactly what needed to be done to haul away the debris and clean the barns. Subsequently I received his devis in the mail which induced a hissy fit of mega proportions. Why? Do you know what a devis is? The simple answer would be it’s a quote for a job to be done. However a devis is much more serious than a casual estimate of potential cost involved. It is a legally binding document detailing every aspect of said job. It includes the specific materials to be used, the labor cost, the time frame, everything. A devis is typically valid for 30 days and must be signed by both parties within these 30 days. It is also customary to specify a downpayment to be pay at signature. In this case the amount quoted for our cleaning job ran to slightly less than 1100€ with a downpayment of 380€. And why was I upset about that? Well, the assessor had assured me that the insurance company would be responsible for the work proposed, but if I had signed that devis I would automatically have become responsible for the entire cost.

After some consultation with our designated insurance councillor an oddity emerged. The cleaning firm the assessor had sent over, wasn’t a company with which our insurance company is partnered. What kind of graft was going on there? Some time later, another cleaning outfit made itself known, this time with the approval of the insurer. Going through their advanced paperwork after making an appointment, I saw the 380€ “down payment” again. I cancelled the appointment immediately and once more consulted with our councillor, and gradually the fog began to lift. In summery, our insurance company had approved an amount of 1100€ for cleaning up the mess including a refund for damaged furniture. The French government, however, had established a copay of 380€ that must be carried by the homeowner following a national disaster. It also became clear that I was not required to use one of these ridiculously expensive national cleaning chains. Instead we were refunded in cash and paid our own handyman and friend to do the job after we were all fully vaccinated. Win – win!

P.S. Meanwhile a different division of the home insurance provider sent us a refund check for roughly one-third of our hotel bill. That was the ceiling for our level of insurance, they said. It took a while, but all in all we were well served after this disaster. I wonder, though, by how much the premium will go up next year …

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