Homeowners warned of cowboys and rogues in wake of Kent's great storm
Homeowners are being warned to be on their guard for rogue traders following one of the worst storms in Kent in recent history.
As the county prepares the clean-up operation after more than 100 trees were toppled in gales topping 70mph, some cold callers are preparing to target the vulnerable - still reeling after structural damage to homes or cars.
Police issued the warning after power cables were brought down, at least four vehicles were crushed and areas flooded in the fierce gales.
A tree falls close to shops in Gravesend town centre
Teenager Bethany Freeman tragically died when a tree crushed the mobile home she was sleeping in at Edenbridge.
Now police are urging people to be extra vigilant in the aftermath of the storm.
Ch Insp Lee Russell said: "Storm damage leaves people in a vulnerable position and it’s very easy to take advantage of them.
"They often need to replace dislodged roof tiles before damage gets worse, restore electricity and phone lines or remove trees and branches that pose a hazard.
An advertising board hits a train at Faversham station
"Unfortunately some people hope to cash in on others’ misery by offering to do repair work when they’re not properly qualified or, in some cases, have no intention of actually carrying out the work."
They have told householders to look out for visits from so-called water, gas or electricity company representatives - they rarely call without appointments.
Always check a visitor's ID - even if they have an appointment. Check their phone number against one in the phone book or on a recent bill.
If you need to go inside for any reason, leave the person waiting outside and shut the door.
The storm caused powerful waves at Dover seafront. Picture: Tony Flashman
And if in any doubt, don't let them in at all. Instead, make a later appointment.
Police warn homeowners to use traders recommended by family or friends, or those aimed at improving business standards, such as the Kent County Council Trading Standards Buy with Confidence approved trader scheme or Medway's Fair Traders Scheme.
Finally, always ask for estimates or quotes in writing, and ring more than three traders to get an average price for the job.
The message comes as frontline staff recovered from one of their busiest days in recent times.
Paul Andrew tries to clear a fallen tree from Military Road in Dover
Toby Howe, of Kent County Council's highways and transportation department, said his team dealt with callouts throughout the 5,500 miles of roads around the county.
Working with police and other emergency agencies, the team helped clear scores of trees and blocked roads.
But it could still take some time to sort through the aftermath, according to insurers.
Jamie Card, sales executive at Swinton Insurers in Dartford, said: "We will probably receive these calls for over a week, because sometimes house damage doesn't appear overnight."
But it is homeowners, car drivers and insurers who are left counting the cost after a few hours of storms.
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