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Hurricane Ida made history as the second most damaging storm to ever strike Louisiana. On August 27th, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Category 4 hurricane made landfall at Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Tied for the strongest hurricane to make landfall there with Hurricane Laura (2020) and Last Island Hurricane (1856), Hurricane Ida had sustained winds of up to 150 mph. It was also the sixth costliest tropical cyclone to hit the United States, costing about $50 billion in damages. After breaking multiple rainfall records, Ida precipitated major flooding in cities like New York and New Jersey. The hurricane was responsible for an estimated 109 deaths, between the United States and Venezuela.
Hurricane season extends from June 1st to November 30th, thus encompassing the entirety of summer and a good portion of fall. Hurricane Ida was only the ninth named storm during a season in which scientists predicted at least thirteen. As climate change alters weather patterns all over the globe, we can expect even more extreme weather in the future.
Hurricanes can be a deadly mix of wind and water. Even a Category 1 hurricane can cause damage to roofs, gutters, and siding with its 74 mph winds. As well, storm surge can cause flooding. Downed power lines might mean loss of power for a few days. Now, a Category 2 hurricane can cause extensive damage to homes and businesses and result in loss of power for at least a week. Categories 3 through 5 are classified as major hurricanes and can have devastating impacts. While a Category 3 hurricane can leave your home without access to water for days, a Category 5 hurricane can make an area uninhabitable for months.
The flooding which occurred in the northeastern United States following Ida caught many by surprise. Those affected might not have considered their towns and cities to be susceptible to extreme hurricane damage. That’s why it's important to seek coverage for hurricanes, even if you live in an area traditionally unaffected. And, if you live in an area where hurricanes are common, it's important for you to ensure you have the proper coverage. Therefore, today, we’re illustrating ways you can prepare for hurricanes from an insurance standpoint.
Are You Covered?
Most homeowners’ insurance policies do not explicitly cover hurricane-related damage. While a homeowner’s policy may include water damage from wind-driven rain, most will not include flood coverage or wind-related damage coverage, even if you live in an area where hurricanes are common. For wind-related damage, you can add an endorsement onto your current homeowner’s policy (with a separate deductible), or add a separate windstorm and hail policy. Usually, you’ll need to invest in a separate flood policy. The price of flood insurance is determined by location, risk, the age of your home, the amount of coverage desired, and the deductible amount. FEMA has multiple flood risk designations. These designations are based on historical data and percentages for any given area. In high-risk areas, flood insurance is usually mandatory.
However, flood insurance does not cover sewage backups, which are a possibility when major storms hit and flooding occurs. For this reason, sewage backup insurance is recommended for those who live in hurricane-prone areas.
In addition to not covering wind and flood damage, your homeowner’s policy may not have enough coverage for you to rebuild your home in the event of a major hurricane. When reevaluating your policy limit, have a clear estimate of how much money would be required to fully rebuild your house, as this isn’t always the market price. If your home were to be destroyed, would you have enough to replicate the entire house again? If not, you might want to adjust your policy limit.
Obviously, hurricane insurance is the best protection in the event of a hurricane. The reason for this is because deductibles on windstorm policies most often do not apply to hurricanes, and vice versa. The standard trigger for a hurricane insurance deductible is usually when the National Hurricane Center (or NOAA or U.S. National Weather Service) names a storm. Hurricane deductibles are usually a percentage, instead of a dollar amount.
Even within your hurricane, sewage backup, and flooding insurance, you should read each agreement carefully to determine exclusions. Exclusions are events in which a policy no longer applies or for which a claim could be denied. Exclusions exist to protect the insurance company, but you need to ensure your needs are being met as well.
If you’ve run through the voluntary market of options in your state, certain states have FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) plans and Beach plans. These are most commonly found in states where hurricane/flood insurance is mandatory and in coastal areas. Certain states might also offer discounts on insurance to incentivize homeowners to take steps to lessen potential hurricane damage, such as roof bracing, roof covering, and increasing roof-to-wall strength. Most of these alterations are inherent in a home’s design and are more easily incorporated before the home is built, but there are a few alterations which can be applied to an existing structure. Check with your private insurance company to find out if these incentives exist in your state.
In the event of a hurricane or a flood, it’s not just your home which needs protection. Personal items can also be damaged by water or swept away by wind. Couches, televisions, beds, jewelry--everything which will need to be replaced also needs to be covered. Start by creating a full inventory of your home’s possessions. This may seem like a daunting task to begin with, but take this room by room. You’ll want to keep documentation of each item you would like to be covered and their corresponding value. Having this after a hurricane will make the claims process a breeze and help you get your items replaced faster!
Hurricanes can leave families displaced for weeks and even months. To offset the cost of rent, food, and other expenses, additional living expenses (ALE) coverage is necessary. Ordinarily, these policy limits are set at 20% of the insurance coverage of your home. If you live in an expensive, hurricane-prone area, you may want to seek a higher ALE limit. ALE also covers loss of rental income, to protect landlords in the event of hurricane damage to their rental property.
After a hurricane, there may be individuals looking to take advantage of people’s desperation. If you are seeking repairs on a damaged portion of your property, make sure you shop around for multiple quotes before signing anything. Always ask for references. Ultimately, any agreement made should be in writing and should not have any blank sections in which a contractor could later add something.
If you notice a new named storm heading for your property, it’s probably too late to invest in hurricane insurance. Most policies have a 30-day waiting period (although some do not). However, you should still invest in hurricane insurance to be prepared for next time!
Protect yourself from wind and water damage before the next unexpected hurricane forms. Just as you would batten your hatches, board up your windows, and fill your tub with water--so too should you adequately prepare for the aftermath. Hurricane insurance exists to help people return to normal after storms have flipped their lives upside down. Our condolences go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Ida and we hope you’ll take time to protect your home and possessions from the storms which may follow in its wake.
If you still need help finding the right insurance policy for your needs, reach out to us! Everyone here at Abri Insurance is eager to assist you in your search for the best coverage. Come back here to read the latest news and discover more about how to make the insurance industry work for you! Thanks for reading! Until next time!
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