Most Americans can still remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Residents in six states were affected and property damage exceeded $91 billion. More recently, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, impacting residents in fourteen states, causing more than $60 billion in damages. If you live along the eastern seaboard or Gulf of Mexico, you are probably wondering how you can protect your investment in your home.
Facts About Hurricanes
- Hurricane season peaks from mid-August to late October
- An average of six hurricanes form over the Atlantic Ocean every year
- Hurricane wind-speeds range from 74 to 200 miles per hour
- A hurricane can dump more than 2.4 trillion gallons of water in a single day
Hurricane Insurance Coverage May Help in a Risk Zone
Hurricane coverage may be available in your state, and could be worth purchasing for your home and property. It is important to work with a local agent who knows the region, the risks, and the laws in your state. An independent insurance agent can provide the guidance you need, particularly if you live in one of the coastal zones most vulnerable to hurricane damage.
Five of the ten most damaging hurricanes to hit the United States have occurred since 1990. Even if your home is hundreds of miles from the coast, you may experience the damaging effects of a hurricane that hits landfall.
High winds are the primary cause of hurricane-inflicted property damage. Hurricane force winds have been known to uproot trees, overturn vehicles, shatter windows and even level buildings. Heavy rains can also damage roofs and allow water to leak into your home, prompting many homeowners to wonder whether their homeowners policy covers water damage from storms and other causes.
Be sure you fully understand your homeowners insurance, including your limits and the exclusions in your policy. Because no two home insurance policies are alike, make sure you know what is covered, and whether you may need to add coverage or increase limits to be prepared for the risks in your area.
Hurricane Insurance Does Not Cover Flood Damage
Hurricanes bring heavy rains that often cause flooding due to sewage backups, rising waterways and saturated soil. While hurricane insurance policies will typically cover water damage if the water comes from above, if damage comes from flooding, you will need to have a separate flood insurance policy.
As many people discovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, homeowners insurance does not cover property destroyed by cresting rivers. To prepare for this type of damage, you need flood insurance offered through the National Flood Insurance Program and available through independent insurance agents.
It is important to know that while you can apply for flood insurance anytime, there is a 30 day waiting period before you can use the coverage. It is important to plan ahead.
Federal Disaster Assistance: Not Insurance
Some people feel that hurricane and flood insurance are not necessary. They reason that they can rely on federal assistance in the event of a natural disaster. However, government assistance programs are distinctly different from insurance coverage, and may or may not provide the assistance you need to recover from a hurricane. Here are the key differences:
- Federal disaster assistance will usually provide temporary housing and necessities such as food, clothing and shelter following a hurricane or flood.
- Federal financial assistance comes in the form of low-interest loans that must be repaid to the government.
- Disaster relief is often subject to congressional approval and can be delayed.
- Coverage you buy for your home and personal belongings can provide fairly immediate benefits after a natural disaster, as soon as an insurance adjuster can get to you.
Hurricanes Affect Travelers
What happens when your travel plans are interrupted by a hurricane? Travel insurance can provide coverage for the cost of your hotel accommodations and travel expenses if you are unable to fly due to airport closures caused by a hurricane.
It is important to know the restrictions on travel insurance. If you have purchased travel insurance at least 24 hours before a hurricane forms, you can typically have your non-refundable travel costs reimbursed if you are forced to cancel your plans.
For example, if weather experts predict that a coastal storm is brewing in the south Atlantic and you’ve already bought tickets to Florida, you can buy travel insurance immediately after the prediction and be covered if the storm lands. If you wait until the coastal storm becomes a hurricane and has an official name, it is likely too late to cover the cost of your trip.
Hurricane and Homeowners Insurance Differ State by State
Every state is different in its approach and regulations for homeowners insurance and coverage for major storms. For example, several states, including Florida, Texas, Alabama and New York, allow homeowners insurance companies to impose much higher deductibles for hurricane damage claims to reduce the risk to the insurance carriers. Not all insurance companies take advantage of state regulations, however.
In certain states, home owners may need to supplement hurricane insurance with windstorm insurance. Those who live in a floodplain may be able to get by with their regular homeowners insurance supplemented with flood insurance.