October 3, 2014
The skies were so dark, Jim Vollmers remembered. Jim and wife Lisa had just picked up their 16-year-old son Spencer from baseball practice. (Daughter Olivia, age 18, was at high school soccer practice.) That’s when the family heard the sirens. Soon, they’d see the tornado. Later, they’d test the Meemic insurance they’d had for over 20 years — but that’s later in the story.
Jim, Laboratory Services Manager at University of Michigan, and Lisa, academic advisor for the USA Hockey program at Pioneer High School in Arbor, live on three acres of heavily wooded property. Somewhere around 5 p.m., they were driving up to the house. “It looked like very ugly skies, but we didn’t recognize it was a tornado because it was so wide.” Reports would put the funnel’s size at a quarter-mile wide.
“We pulled in to the garage and got out and heard the noise — the one people say sounds like a freight train — and realized we were in a tornado,” said Jim. “From the time we walked outside and looked and tried to close the garage door, tree branches and debris were flying into the garage and hitting the house.” The Vollmers live in a tri-level house and they ran for the lowest level. “Things started flying through the woods and big pieces of sheet metal were flying off a neighbor’s pole barn. … Things were smashing into the house and windows breaking. The storm seemed to go on forever.”
“It was the most helpless feeling we ever had,” Jim said.
Then, it started hailing — hail the size of baseballs. “The house had damage everywhere.” Windows on the other side of the house could not open because the house frame was twisted. About a third of the roof was gone, along with a wall on the second floor by the kids’ bedrooms. The foundation was cracked. The tornado would steal 40 trees from their beautiful wooded lot, including a 220-year-old white oak.
“We called Meemic and got a hold of someone immediately,” Jim recalled. “The claims adjuster said someone would be out first thing in the morning and asked if we had a place to stay.” A Meemic claims representative told the family to find somewhere safe to stay and that their stay would be covered.
The Vollmers reported Meemic was on the scene the next day by 8 a.m. for an initial assessment. “They got the process started right away.” When the house was inspected, 80 percent of the second floor had to be removed and rebuilt. Their claims representative suggested companies Meemic worked with and who would guarantee their work. Even more reassuring was the report the Vollmers received from the builder they selected. “The building company said Meemic was the best company they had dealt with — period. They said Meemic was the most straightforward.”
The family reports their Meemic claim experience was exceptional overall. “We always got through to someone and were treated with courtesy.” In fact, the family reports that repairs on the home were recently completed — one particularly important to Spencer. The treehouse that Jim and Spencer built as a learning experience had to come down because it was damaged and deemed unsafe.
Every kids’ dream, Spencer’s original tree house measured 8 by 10 feet and included windows, screens, porch and shingled roof. The restoration was covered by the family’s policy and, Jim reports, “They were able to rebuild it as a house ‘out in the trees’ instead of ‘up in the trees.’ It’s trimmed out just like the house.”
The Vollmers report they were out of their house for about eight months and were able to move back in the week of Thanksgiving. “We didn’t lose too many things that were nonreplaceable. We had a lot of good friends that helped along the way, too.” Sadly, family members who live about a mile away from the couple report they’re still having difficulty with their claim and are working on the repairs now.
“We were so glad we had Meemic,” Jim said. “Our claims service was exceptional at a time when it really mattered.”
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