The snowstorms of February have abated to the point where homeowners can look up from the blades of their shovels and assess the lasting impact -- the snapped trees, sagging gutters, dripping windows and bowed rooflines. Put down the roof rakes and hang on to your wallets.
As Pennsylvanians prepare to hire contractors to help put their houses back together again, state officials have some practical advice.
First, insurance commissioner Joel Ario advises, consumers should contact their insurance companies to report losses. Take photographs and make notes on the damages, and write down the name of each official contacted. Many homeowner policies require an on-site inspection by an adjuster before proceeding with repairs.
Attorney General Tom Corbett says homeowners should not start a project without a written contract that includes a start and finish date and a three-day right to cancel; don't sign blank documents or hire firms that don't have a business card, local phone number or physical address rather than a post office box; check references first; and make final payments only after you are satisfied with the work.
Hiring a fraudulent or disreputable contractor can do a lot more damage than 40 inches of snow. Be careful out there.