Cable Company Bills Tornado Victim $2,000 for Damaged Equipment

Having a tornado demolish her home was bad enough. But when Ann Beam received a $2,000 cable bill a few weeks later, she was floored. "I just couldn't believe it," Beam said. "I was like, 'What are they thinking?'"

Time Warner Cable billed a number of Wheatland residents for equipment destroyed in the Jan. 7 twister that struck the southeast corner of the state. Beam's bill covered five cable boxes and five remote controls.

She immediately called the cable company, but a man who identified himself as a manager said there was nothing the company could do.

"They said I would have to take the bill and turn it in to my insurance company," Beam said.

But her cable equipment was nine years old, and the insurance company would pay only a depreciated value that wouldn't cover her bill, she said.

Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Celeste Flynn said Beam's case was simply a misunderstanding. An unspecified number of customers were charged for unreturned equipment, but only because they canceled or transferred their service without mentioning their requests were tornado-related, she said.

"We understand this is an unusual situation," Flynn said. "All they will need to do is call and we will take the equipment off their account."

Time Warner Cable has tried to contact affected customers but privacy laws have impeded those efforts, she said.

Rare winter tornadoes that destroyed more than two dozen homes and damaged nearly 80 others in Kenosha County on Jan. 7. The damage was estimated at $18 million.