A tree fell on a Garden City house during Tropical...

A tree fell on a Garden City house during Tropical Storm Irene. (Aug. 28, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

The winds and rains brought down trees, damaged roofs, and caused flooding, but it could have been worse, said some insurance agents as they began to receive calls from homeowners Sunday.

"For the most part, we've dodged a bullet as far as the intensity of the hurricane," said James F. Sutton, who owns the James F. Sutton Agency in East Islip. "Some damage to roofs, siding and windows, and I think most of the damage is going to be from trees falling on people's houses, basically part of any big storm. The catastrophic events seen in [Hurricane] Katrina or Florida, you really haven't had that here."

As of 3 p.m. Sunday, State Farm said a preliminary count of claims for the metro area numbered 60 for automobile insurance and 360 for homeowners insurance, according to spokesman Jeff McCollum.

Agents and insurers said it was too early to assess the property damage the storm caused on Long Island. One critical determination for Long Islanders who have a separate windstorm deductible will be whether Irene is considered a tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane.

The usual deductible on a homeowner's policy, which covers more mild windstorm damage, is around $500 to $1,000, but the deductible for damage caused by hurricane-force winds can be anywhere between 1 and 5 percent of total coverage on top of any other deductibles.

The factors triggering the larger deductible vary from company to company and are determined using information from the National Weather Service, said Thomas J. Crowley, a partner at Maran Corporate Risk Associates in Southampton and the chairman-elect of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of New York. He is hopeful that the insurance companies will make that decision by Monday or Tuesday and that they conclude it was a tropical storm, he said. But if insurers say that the hurricane deductible applies, he advises homeowners to do their own research before accepting that conclusion.

"I would tell people . . . I wouldn't accept the insurance company's answer," Crowley said. "I would get the policy up, read it and check with the National Weather Service and, if need be, call the [state] insurance department if there's any chance the wind deductible wasn't triggered."

According to Allstate spokeswoman Krista Conte, the higher deductible for windstorm damage is triggered by winds of 100 mph or more, so in this case it won't apply.

Insurance companies said they had hundreds of claims adjusters ready to be deployed, as well as agents responding to phone calls as residents Sunday began surveying the damage caused by Hurricane Irene.

, McCollum said. Agents will triage the claims, prioritizing the worst damage. In less complicated cases, adjusters will be able to write checks out on the spot, he said. Allstate will deploy as many as 6 mobile command centers in the metro area that will serve as claim centers. They will also designate local Allstate agencies as claim centers where people can physically process claims. Liberty Mutual also had teams ready, said spokesman Glenn Greenberg.

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