Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Blizzard Damage?
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Every winter, areas of the nation are pummeled by heavy snowstorms and blizzards with high winds that cause significant damages to homes and electric power lines to fall throughout communities.
Blizzards cost American homeowners millions in property damages every year, but does homeowners insurance cover these expenses? In this article, you'll learn which damages that homeowners insurance covers.
What Is a Blizzard?
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), a blizzard is a storm with heavy blowing snow and winds exceeding 35 miles per hour. A blizzard can cause whiteout conditions that decrease visibility to less than a quarter of a mile for three hours. Severe blizzards can have hurricane wind force.
A ground blizzard is a snowstorm where no snow falls onto the ground. Instead, high winds whip around snow accumulations that have already fallen before the blizzard. It blows snow into drifts and causes severe blizzard conditions.
These severe winter storms occur when temperatures are near or below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. When these storm system conditions are met, the National Weather Service will issue either a "blizzard warning" or a "winter storm warning." The federal agency will issue a winter storm watch when they believe these conditions will occur.
Where Do Blizzards Occur?
Blizzards usually occur in the upper Midwest and Great Plains of the United States. These winter storms can also occur in other areas in the nation, like the East Coast. Blizzard conditions are unlikely to affect warmer areas, like the Gulf Coast and California.
Meteorologists have recorded these snowstorms in every region of the world, including the tropics, where cold air and chilly temperatures prevail in mountainous areas.
The first blizzard to be declared a federal emergency took place in New York City, upstate New York and Ohio.
Create an Emergency Plan and Disaster Kit to Prepare for a Blizzard
As with any disaster, your first and foremost responsibility is to keep yourself safe by having an evacuation plan and knowing where your local shelter is. You should also know if your local shelter takes pets if you have one.
Keeping extra fuel in your car to avoid gas lines and having alternative routes in case of traffic during a mandatory evacuation can help to ease the evacuation process. Besides protecting yourself and your loved ones, there are concrete steps that you can take to protect your home and your belongings in case of a blizzard.
Evacuation and Sheltering-In-Place Emergency Kits
The main two types of emergency kits are for sheltering in place during winter storms and for evacuating. These kits can be kept at home, in the office and your car. The basic recommendations for an emergency kit are as follows:
Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days
Appropriate clothes for winter weather
Food for three days (don't forget pets!)
Portable radio, with battery or hand-cranked power source
Moist towelettes and trash bags for personal sanitation
First-aid kit/Prescription medication
For a blizzard, add warm clothes and blankets to your emergency kit to help prevent hypothermia or frostbite. Waterproof, protective footwear and gloves are also highly recommended additions to your blizzard emergency kit.
Keep a Paper Copy of Emergency Contacts
For shelter emergency kits, experts recommend having enough emergency supplies to sustain your household for 72 hours.
To increase the likelihood of a swift and safe exit, evacuation emergency kits should be created for each member of your household. These evacuation supplies should be stored in an easily transportable container, such as a backpack.
Incorporate checking your emergency aid kit into your seasonal cleaning routine. Remember to replace expired food supplies and medications as well as to update clothes according to proper sizes and weather conditions. Seasonal updates and staying aware of what items are getting close to expiration will provide you peace of mind about the readiness of your emergency kit.
Having all of your necessary supplies readily available is a great way to ease the stress of any disaster and increase your likelihood of staying safe and healthy. Keep in mind that if you are sheltering-in-place, you may not have access to water or electricity.
Developing an Emergency Plan for a Blizzard
FEMA provides a comprehensive guide to help you prepare for and survive a blizzard. Practice your emergency plan with your household, remembering to create both an evacuation plan and a stay-in-place shelter plan. Never stay in your home when it is advised that you evacuate for a blizzard.
You may have several different disaster scenarios to consider, depending on how disastrous the blizzard is and the natural disasters that follow the initial storm.
This is why it is essential to construct a comprehensive disaster plan and practice it diligently with the other members of your household. Your household members should be aware of who is responsible for pets and various dependent household members, such as small children, people with disabilities or seniors who may need assistance.
Buy Blizzard Insurance Coverage
Much like hurricanes, blizzards can raise other concerns like high winds, heavy snow, freezing rain, flooding and ice, all of which may do substantial damage, especially when combined. For example, strong winds can create a hole in your home for ice and snow to enter and damage your belongings inside.
1.) Roof Damage Due to Heavy Snow
Your policy will cover the cost of damage if a blizzard dumps heavy snow onto your roof and causes it to collapse.
Standard homeowner insurance policies may cover various blizzard-related damage, including damage sustained from ice dams, which melt on the roof and refreeze, seeping into your walls and ceilings as a result. You may also be covered if the snow on the roof builds up to the point where your roof collapses. It will also pay for roof damages caused by fallen trees, branches, and other structures.
2.) Wind Damage
Your homeowners insurance policy will cover damages to any content in your home as well as your home caused by high winds during a blizzard. It will cover the cost to repair your home when tree branches fall onto your house. Your auto insurance will kick in If the blizzard causes a tree to fall onto your car, instead of homeowners insurance.
3.) Water Damages
Your homeowners insurance only covers sudden and immediate damages to your home that occur from the top down. It will pay for water damages when it's caused by a frozen pipe that bursts in your home because of freezing temperatures.
It may also cover damages caused by an ice dam that forms on your roof and causes structural damages to your roof, home or property. It won't cover floods caused by snowstorms. For instance, if the snow melts into a river causing it to overflow its banks, your insurance won't cover it.
The National Flood Insurance Program, which sells flood insurance, notes that floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the united states. Your home could flood if the blizzard conditions bring high tides and strong winds that send icy tides into the streets. Standard homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover flood damage. You must buy it separately.
Insurance companies may also incorrectly attribute water damage from a blizzard to a flood. Take pictures and prepare to argue your case if your home suffers water damage from a blizzard. Flood insurance is only mandated for people living in high-risk flood zones, so it is important to consider purchasing a separate flood policy.
What Should Do If You Have to Drive in a Blizzard?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has these tips to help you weather a blizzard.
Surviving Outdoors During a Blizzard
You can take these steps if you are caught outside during a blizzard.
Find a Shelter - Try to keep dry by covering all of your exposed body parts.
No Shelter Nearby - Create a windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind. If you can, build a fire to attract attention from law enforcement. You can also place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
Use melted snow for water - frozen snow can lower your body temperatures.
Exercise - Move around to get the blood circulating through your body and raise your temperature. Don't overtax yourself, because sweating can cause hyperthermia. Don't overexert yourself by pushing a car through deep snow, because the labor may cause you to have a heart attack.
Preparing to Travel During a Blizzard
If you have to drive during a winter storm, you may take the following precautions.
Slow down on the roads. If the roads look wet, they may have ice buildup on them and cause traffic accidents. There are more than 5,000 fatalities that occur on roads every year due to poor weather conditions.
Before you drive, clean off all ice and snow buildup on your car before driving. Flying snow from vehicles can cause car accidents.
Tell someone what route you're driving down during the snowstorm. If something happens, the person will alert authorities to begin a search.
If you skid, calm down, take your foot off the pedal and maneuver your wheels in the direction you want your car to go. Apply steady pressure if your car has anti-lock brakes, and never pump the brakes.
When you are trapped in low visibility, pull to the side of the road and stop your vehicle until winds and weather conditions and visibility improve. Turn off your lights and use your parking brake, so other vehicles won't follow your lights and hits you.
Bring a tow rope that can pull your car out of heavy snow accumulations. Have jumper cables handy to start your car, if it is unable to turn on due to cold weather.
What Should You Do If You Get Stuck During a Blizzard?
Here are some tips you should follow if your car gets caught in a blizzard.
Stay in your vehicle or you'll become disoriented and cold quickly in a wind-driven blizzard.
Run the motor every ten minutes for heat
Open the window while heating your car to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning.
After the snow stops, you must:
Make sure your car is visible to rescuers.
You can turn on a dome light at night while running your engine.
You can tie a bright cloth, preferably red, to your door's antenna.
Once the snow stops falling, raise your car's hood to show others you need help.
What Should I do if I'm Home During a Blizzard?
There are several things you can do if your home has a power outage and your heat goes out during a blizzard.
Close unneeded rooms to save energy.
Stuff towels and rags in cracks under your doors
Close blinds and curtains to maintain heat.
Cold air is dehydrating and drains energy. Eat and drink food to get energy. Drink water and non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic drinks to prevent dehydration
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight warm clothes that don't cause you to perspire or overheat.
After the Storm
When the blizzard is over, there are several steps you can take to ensure your safety. Diligently monitor local news and safety alerts. If you have evacuated the area, only return home when directed to by authorities and after power outages have ended in your community.
The NWS refers to blizzards as "deceptive killers" because most death and injuries are indirectly related to the storm itself. The main reasons for injury and death in blizzards include:
Car accidents due to ice and snow,
Heart attacks from overexertion while clearing snowfall
Suffering frostbite or hypothermia due to a lowered body temperature and cold weather conditions
Here are some tips you can follow to stay safe during blizzards.
Stay dry by dressing in warm and protective clothing.
Avoid overexertion when clearing and shoveling snow after a blizzard.
If you must drive, remove snow and ice from your tailpipe before starting your vehicle.
Clean all snow and ice from your car before you drive it and check your car regularly if it is idling.
Once you are home, take steps to prevent additional property damage. For example, if your roof was damaged you may want to cover it with a tarp. Keep in mind that insurance may not cover damage that occurs after the blizzard. Document home damages to the best of your ability via photograph and video to assist in the claims process.
File your claim with your homeowners insurance company as soon as you can because insurance claims will take some time to be processed. If you are missing key documentation, additional delays are possible. However, there are steps you can take to curb the stress of a blizzard by planning.
Proactivity and planning provide the best peace of mind. An appropriate homeowners insurance policy is essential to your home's recovery from a blizzard. Additionally, home inventories are very valuable in aiding in the claims process
Create a home inventory as soon as possible if you do not already have one. Be familiar with what your homeowner insurance policy covers specifically. To protect your home and belongings talk to an insurance expert to make sure your policy has you covered in case of blizzard-related damage to your residence.