What is typically called “hurricane season” runs from June 1 to November 30. This is the period during which hurricanes that form over the Atlantic Ocean are most likely to occur — and these are the storms that have the most potential to make landfall in the United States.
There are many things that homeowners need to know about hurricanes and their homeowners insurance policies, and the beginning of hurricane season is a good time to review what homeowners can do to prepare for storms.
Weather experts are predicting a “near average” hurricane season for 2017 that is potentially less active than 2016. Experts estimate that there will be 12 “named storms” and eight hurricanes, two of which may be major storms. Hurricanes that have maximum sustained winds of 74 mph are Category 1 storms, while Category 5 storms have winds that match or exceed 156 mph. Any storm that is a Category 3 with wind speeds of 111 mph or higher is considered a major storm.
Of course, these are predictions that could turn out to be inaccurate. It’s also possible that those major storms could cause significant property damage and potentially loss of life. As a result, regardless of what the estimates are, homeowners in coastal areas should prepare. Check out these statistics from the Insurance Information Institute about hurricanes that have recently caused an enormous amount of property damage in the United States:
- Since 2007, we have experienced eight catastrophic hurricanes.
- Hurricane Katrina alone caused damage estimated at $108 billion with $41.1 billion in insured losses, making it the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
- Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina are home to the top 10 coastal communities that have experienced the most hurricanes from 1960 to 2008.
- The Insurance Information Institute reports that there have been five hurricanes in the United States for which insurance losses exceeded $10 billion.
Steps to prepare your home for a hurricane
It’s best to prepare your home and property before hurricanes start forming. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has tips on steps you can take:
- Inspect any trees nearby that could damage your home. Remove any dead trees, and trim away branches. The strong winds of a hurricane or tropical storm can uproot trees.
- Gutters and downspouts should be cleared regularly and secured.
- Pay close attention to windows and roofs, making sure that they are in good condition. FEMA analysis of post-disaster coastal areas indicates that most structural failures caused by high-wind events often start with the roof.
- Secure or clear any other items outside the house that could damage the home.
- Know what your evacuation route is, and have a family communication plan — more importantly, review it with family members.
- If an evacuation looks possible, make sure your vehicle is in good working order and has a full tank of gas.
You should also make sure that your home emergency kit is stocked and ready, with enough water and non-perishable food for your family (including pets) for at least three days. If you have a generator, test it, and review safe use instructions. FEMA’s website has a detailed summary of steps to take when a hurricane is approaching — what you should do in the 36, 18, and 6 hours ahead of a storm making landfall.
Your homeowners insurance policy and flood insurance
Review your homeowners policy and understand what it does and does not cover. Many homeowners are unaware that damage caused by flooding resulting from a hurricane is not covered by their homeowners insurance. If you live in a coastal area, even if you are not in a low-lying area, you might want to consider purchasing flood insurance. Do not wait too long to do this, as most policies are usually not effective until after 30 days.
It’s human nature to become accustomed to watches and warnings if you live in an area that experiences such warnings every year. Resist the tendency to take these too lightly. Every storm is different, and a complex number of factors can either increase or decrease any storm’s intensity quickly. Review the experiences of others to see how your carrier handled similar claims in the past, and above all, stay safe.
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