Rebuilding After the 2016 Blizzards

(How the right coverage helped victims, and how you can prepare for your own worst disasters.)
Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for by authoring consumable, understandable content.

paul martin Reviewed by Paul Martin
paul martin
Reviewed by Paul Martin

Paul Martin is the Director of Education and Development for Myron Steves, one of the largest, most respected insurance wholesalers in the southern U.S.

January 2016 blizzards

When disaster strikes, insurance is there to provide essential coverage, even in the case of record-breaking natural disasters. When Winter Storm Jonas struck the US in 2016, it caused tons of property damage, numerous auto accidents, and dozens of deaths across several states. Fortunately for victims of this powerful storm, coverages like car insurance and business insurance were able to help them resume their lives.

An independent insurance agent can help you find the right coverage for your own worst disasters, even if they’re not quite as tragic, destructive, or disruptive as this one. But first, here’s a closer look at the January 2016 blizzard and how different types of insurance coverage were able to help victims recover.

What Was the Impact of the January 2016 Blizzard?

Over a three-day period between January 22-24, 2016, an historic nor’easter blizzard dumped up to 3 feet of snow on certain areas in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the US. The blizzard was referred to by a couple of nicknames, including Winter Storm Jonas. In such a short span of time, the nor’easter disrupted the lives of millions of people and caused significant damage.

Quick stats about the January 2016 blizzard:

  • 31 deaths were reported
  • Most deaths occurred due to traffic accidents
  • Total damages are estimated between $500 million and $3 billion
  • 434,000 square miles were hit by the snowstorm
  • 102.8 million people were impacted
  • Over 30 inches of snow plagued 1.5 million people
  • Over 20 inches of snow plagued another 24 million people
  • The storm was ranked as a Category 5, aka “extreme” in the Northeast
  • The storm was ranked as a Category 4, aka “crippling” in the Southeast
  • Governors in 11 different states declared a state of emergency
  • More than 13,000 flights were canceled
  • Several cities broke previous records for amount of snowfall recorded

Though the January 2016 blizzard was extremely debilitating for millions of people across several states, fortunately the victims were able to receive financial aid through insurance and federal funding.

How Did the January 2016 Blizzard Break Records?

Location New Record Old Record Date
Allentown, Pennsylvania 31.9" 25.9" Jan 7-9, 1996
Baltimore, Maryland 29.2" 26.8" Feb 16-18, 2003
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 30.2" 24.2" Jan 7-9, 1996
JFK Airport, New York 30.5" 26.0" Feb 16-18, 2003
LaGaurdia Airport, New York 27.9" 25.4" Feb 11-12, 2006
Newark, New Jersey 27.9" 27.8" Jan 7-8, 1996

The blizzard of January 2016 broke all-time snowfall records in several cities in the Northeast. Newark, New Jersey’s previous record was 27.8 inches of snowfall from January 7-8, 2006, which was just slightly edged out by the blizzard of January 2016, which brought 27.9 inches.

A larger jump happened at the JFK Airport in New York, with a previous record of 26 inches of snowfall from February 16-18, 2003. The new record, brought by the January 2016 blizzard, climbed to 30.5 inches. However, the largest record shattering occurred in Allentown, Pennsylvania, which had a former record of 24.2 inches from January 7-9, 1996. The town’s new record from the January 2016 blizzard became a whopping 30.2 inches.

Who Provided Help and Relief to the Victims of the January 2016 Blizzard?

Several states received federal assistance following the January 2016 blizzard. Pennsylvania, for example, received $8.9 million in federal disaster relief funds for PennDOT, an agency that aided in snow removal. Rescue efforts on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where about 500 motorists were stranded in their vehicles for more than 24 hours during the storm, were also repaid through federal disaster relief funds of about $2.3 million.

Former president Barack Obama also provided federal funding for debris removal from public areas impacted by the storm, along with many other disaster relief efforts. Federal funding was also granted for emergency efforts to save public lives and to protect public health and property. Hazard mitigation projects with the aim of preventing future risks to property and human lives from natural disasters were also granted federal funding.

Is Blizzard Coverage Part of Every Homeowners Policy?

Fortunately for victims of the January 2016 blizzard as well as for homeowners everywhere, the answer is yes. Standard homeowners policies across the nation provide protection for damages and liabilities associated with several covered natural disasters, including blizzards. Blizzard coverage included in a homeowners policy protects against damage to your home’s structure as well as personal property stored inside the home, and detached structures like sheds too.

Standard homeowners insurance policies also provide coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) in the event a blizzard forces you to leave your home temporarily while awaiting repairs. ALE coverage provides funds for hotel room stays, as well as extra gas mileage for commuting to work, meals eaten out, laundry services, and more.

Without adequate homeowners insurance, victims of blizzards like the winter storm of January 2016 would be stuck paying out of pocket for damages to their home and other property. Be sure to speak with your independent insurance agent to get your home set up with all the coverage it needs against blizzards and other disasters.

How Did Property Insurance Help Victims Get Back to Their Lives?

Property insurance helped victims of the January 2016 blizzard to rebuild their homes and restructure their lives. For Winter Storm Jonas victims, property insurance coverage provided protection in the following ways:

  • Rebuilding homes: Property insurance coverage pays to rebuild homes in the event they are destroyed by a covered peril, such as a blizzard. Winter Storm Jonas victims were able to rebuild homes that were destroyed by the blizzard thanks to property insurance.
  • Ending homelessness: Many of Jonas’ victims were left temporarily homeless following the storm. Fortunately, their property insurance coverage provided the financial assistance necessary to rebuild their homes, as well as reimbursement for fees associated with temporary housing.
  • Replacing personal property: Winter Storm Jonas victims were largely able to replace, repair, and recover from lost, damaged, or destroyed personal belongings such as clothing, furniture, silverware, etc. following the storm. Property insurance typically covers personal property up to 50% to 70% of the insured value of the structure of the home if it’s lost/damaged/destroyed by a blizzard.
  • Replacing property stored elsewhere: Property insurance also covered Winter Storm Jonas victims’ personal belongings stored off premises, such as in storage units, following the disaster. Limits on off premises stored property are sometimes 10% of the total value of personal property coverage, but additional coverage can be added.
  • Mending foliage around homes: Property coverage also includes reimbursement for foliage around the home, including trees, plants, and shrubs if they are damaged or destroyed by a blizzard. Limits typically cap at $500 per plant, but coverage amounts can be increased. Winter Storm Jonas’ victims were able to repair their gardens and general appearance surrounding their homes thanks to property insurance.

While you may never have to submit property insurance claims for crippling or even extreme nor’easter damage, it’s still helpful to learn all the relief this coverage provided to victims of the January 2016 blizzard.

How Did Car Insurance Help Victims to Get Back to Their Lives?

Fortunately for victims of the January 2016 blizzard, having auto insurance allowed them further assistance in resuming their lives. Auto insurance helped Winter Storm Jonas victims in the following ways:

  • Repairs: For victims whose cars were badly damaged during accidents in the blizzard, auto insurance covered repairs to their vehicles under the collision section of their policies.
  • Replacement: Those victims whose cars were completely totaled by the blizzard were able to obtain new vehicles through the help of their auto insurance.
  • Rental cars: While victims awaited repairs on their vehicles, their auto insurance provided them with rental cars so they could still commute to work, run errands, etc.
  • Medical payments: The victims who sustained injuries during Winter Storm Jonas were able to be compensated by their auto insurance policy for medical payments while receiving treatment.

Though not all car insurance claims stem from damage caused by nor’easters, it’s helpful to see just how auto insurance provided relief for victims of this natural disaster in a myriad of ways.

How Did Business Insurance Help Owners Get Back to Work?

Many of Winter Storm Jonas’ victims were business owners as well as homeowners. Luckily, business insurance coverage provided additional protection that allowed business owners to reopen their doors and get back to work.

Business insurance helped victims of the January 2016 blizzard in the following ways:

  • Loss of income: Business insurance includes coverage for lost income suffered during temporary closings due to covered disasters, including blizzards. Business owners who were victims of Winter Storm Jonas were able to recover lost income thanks to business insurance.
  • Property repairs: Business insurance covers damage to or loss of your business’s physical property, including the structure of the business and often the inventory inside of it, due to a covered disaster like a blizzard. Winter Storm Jonas’ victims were able to rely on their business insurance to help them rebuild their businesses from the ground up, repair less major damages, and to recover lost property such as inventory.
  • Lost employee wages: Business insurance also helps pay employee wages that are lost while a business is closed due to covered perils like blizzards. Victims of Winter Storm Jonas were able to compensate their employees during long shutdowns thanks to business insurance coverage.

Businesses close for all kinds of reasons, not just due to catastrophes like Winter Storm Jonas. That being said, knowing all the ways business insurance provided relief to business owners following this blizzard proves just how important coverage is to have for all potential disasters.

Are Winter Storm Jonas Victims and the States Impacted Back to Normal Now?

Thanks to insurance payouts, federal funding, and various relief efforts, life for many of the victims of the January 2016 blizzard has returned to normal. Payouts from homeowners insurance claims allowed victims to repair or rebuild their homes and end homelessness. Car insurance allowed victims to repair or replace lost or damaged vehicles, and business insurance allowed professionals to recover lost income and wages and get back to work.

Federal funding provided to relief efforts from the Obama Administration allowed the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as Washington D.C., to repair public infrastructures and remove debris. These states had been officially declared the “major disaster areas” following the storm, but today they are back to business as usual and communities are thriving once again.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Can Help Protect You from Your Own Disasters

You’ll hopefully never encounter a blizzard as disruptive as Winter Storm Jonas, but independent insurance agents can certainly help protect you from your own disasters. Independent insurance agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who specialize in home, auto, business, and all other forms of insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources, and help you walk through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

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