Severe Weather Alert: Are You Ready for Tornadoes, Floods?

Get ready for severe weather

From the recent tornadoes in Arkansas and Oklahoma, to the flood warnings issued for the New England states to Florida this weekend, Severe Weather Awareness Week kick-started some of Mother Nature's most damaging acts.

Last week's storm system left the South ravaged, citizens killed and several others injured on Monday. Tornadoes and high winds leveled homes and damaged everything from vehicles to schools. The system moved to the east coast on Wednesday saturating the area with 11 inches of rain near Pensacola, Fla. and Mobile, Ala. causing flash floods.

According to a Reuters news report, this one system generated severe weather resulting in 35 deaths, hundreds of injuries and close to $6.7 million in damage to the State of Alabama in a short, three-day span.

Are you Prepared for Severe Weather Season?

Having bottled water, a backup power generator and an emergency meeting place are key components in preparing for severe weather. But, have you ever stopped to think about what you'd do if your home was crumbled by high winds? Many people think their homeowners insurance policy will simply cover whatever happens to the home, but coverage isn't that black and white, or simplistic.

Marty Agather CPCU, a 25-year veteran in the insurance industry who's sold, amended and issued payments on countless severe-weather related homeowners insurance policies emphasizes nobody should assume any policy blindly covers every incident you might encounter.

Do You Understand Homeowners Insurance?

First, let's get a clear picture of the structure of a homeowners insurance policy.

"The broadest description of what you get when you purchase a homeowners policy whether it's for an apartment, a condo or a home is we protect three big classes of financial exposure for you, the insured," Agather explained.

In a broad sense, your policy will protect your home and its contents; the liability you've acquired along with the property; and the use value of the home.

"Today your home is fully intact. You have a place to lay your sleepy head. If your home burns tomorrow, you've lost that. So the insurance company will provide an ability for you to have something similar until your home is repaired," Agather elaborated.

For example, on a $100,000 home, a typical policy might cover $100,000 for the dwelling, $20,000 for other structures on the property such as a detached garage or tool shed and $50,000 for the contents of the home, including your clothing and furniture. Another $10,000 would be allocated for your loss of use of the home and be used to pay for a temporary hotel stay while the home is repaired. Of course each policy differs based on the issuing insurance company.

Within these blanket coverage amounts are limitations. For example, your policy might only cover $1,000 worth of jewelry or $500 in hobby equipment. But what if you have a rare violin in your music collection or inherited your grandmother's diamond broach worth $5,000? The payment from your insurance company wouldn't come close to the value of these specialty items. That's where endorsements and scheduled floaters can be amended to the main policy to cover specific items.

Severe Weather Coverage and Details

With severe weather season upon us, several insurance coverage questions are at the forefront of homeowners minds. Remember -- no answer is a definite and depends on a homeowners individual policy.

The thunderstorm knocked out power to my neighborhood. My chest freezer stopped cooling and all the food inside spoiled. Will homeowners insurance cover the loss of my food?

Yes, but only up to a specific dollar amount. Make sure the spoilage section on your policy has a high enough limit to cover the potential loss. If you purchase a side of beef each summer and fill the freezer with bargains from the grocery store, you may want to get additional coverage on the thousands of dollars of food.

A tornado struck my town and it tore the roof off my home. I can't live there. Will my homeowners insurance cover this "act of God" situation?

Yes, unless you live in a coastal area with wind exclusions. Your homeowners policy should cover the repairs to the home and the cost of staying in a hotel (up to a set maximum dollar amount) or rental property until your home is inhabitable.

The severe storms have caused flash flooding. The water is on my property and seeping into my basement. Will my homeowners policy pay to remodel the basement and replace my furniture and belongings?

No. Flood damage is never a standard covered item on a homeowners policy. Inquire about a flood endorsement or separate policy if you fear this type of damage to your home or its contents.

"Flood is the classic undesirable risk. So there are flood policies available, but what most people don't understand is it's the federal government who steps in," Agather explained.

When a state is declared a disaster area by the federal government homeowners are offered low interest loans to help with the clean-up and rebuilding of their homes.

Homeowners insurance policies are incredibly intricate. No insurance agent expects you to understand every detail or exclusion policy without assistance and guidance. That's why a Trusted Choice® agent can help you determine the best homeowners insurance policy and endorsements for your situation. Don't react to severe weather. Prepare for it. Is it time to review your homeowners policy?

Angela Tague, popular blogger

About the author: Angela Tague writes blogs for major brands including Bounty, Lowe's Home Improvement and Hidden Valley. She also provides feature content to newspapers and writes blogs for Daily Glow, Everyday Health and Walgreens.

Angela has worked in news writing since 1998. Her journalism career has led to positions at The Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, The Sioux City (Iowa) Journal and several weeklies in the Midwest.

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