Local insurance agencies say they are dealing with more claims from Saturday’s storm than from Hurricane Irene.

The damage — from wind, fallen trees, and electricity outages that spoiled food and disrupted business — is still being tallied.

“This is a bigger event for the residents and business people in South Jersey than Hurricane Irene,” said Thomas Heist IV, president of the Thomas H. Heist Insurance Agency with locations in Ocean City, Margate, Egg Harbor Township and Upper Township. “We made it through Hurricane Irene relatively well, but in terms of property damage, this is a much bigger event.

“We still don’t know the extent of the business interruption loss, where businesses can’t operate because of loss of power or inventory due to lack of refrigeration,” Heist said.

Eric Stenson, a spokesman for New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., said 617 claims had been reported to the company by Sunday, including 474 for home damage. Most were in Atlantic and Cumberland counties.

More claims were coming in Monday, and insurance agencies stocked offices — in some cases diverting employees from out-of-area locations — to handle them.

Wind damage and impacts from fallen trees on homes, garages and automobiles represent most claims.

However, some specific types of business and residential insurance policies are now being triggered by the extended power outages through the region.

Some policies pay for revenues lost when a power outage forces a business to close its doors, said Richard Petry, executive vice president for Glenn Insurance, with offices in Absecon and Vineland.

Although not a common form of insurance for businesses, these policies can have deductibles based on a period of time rather than money, he said.

This means the business is responsible for its own losses for a period — typically for the first 12 to 24 hours of a power outage — before insurance kicks in, said Petry, who also said Saturday’s damage exceeded Irene’s in the region.

Meanwhile, as the cleanup continues, residents are dealing with uprooted trees and downed trees--some smashing roofs and sheds, others falling harmlessly to the ground.

Most standard homeowners’ policies do not cover tree removal costs if there was no property damage, although there are exceptions based on individual policies.

Marshall McKnight, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, a state agency that regulates the insurance industry, said homeowners should check their policies and take several steps when there is property damage.

“The important thing is to document everything, pictures, receipts and also notify your carrier right away,” McKnight said. “They should be able to get out there fairly quickly, although if there’s a widespread storm and damage as in this care, it may take them a little longer.”

Also, if possible homeowners should hold off making significant repairs until the insurance company surveys the damage, he said. Doing so could slow down claims processing, he said.

And if a resident has a disputed issue with an insurance company, he can file a complaint with the state Department of Banking and Insurance.

This can be done online by clicking here or by calling 1-800-446-7467.

“They should first try to resolve the issue with insurance carriers,” McKnight said. “If they can’t do that they should file a complaint with us.”

Contact Brian Ianieri:

609-272-7253