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Superstorms Are Coming: Are You Covered?

Superstorms are extreme weather events of excessive size that cause an astronomical amount of damage. An even larger weather event called a “mega storm” is predicted to hit the West Coast, causing massive rain and snowfall which could cause severe damage to dams and levees. Your homeowners insurance can help protect your dwelling from damages caused by such an event, as long as you buy it ahead of time. Additional coverage options to consider include flood insurance, sinkhole insurance, renters insurance and landlord insurance, depending on your situation. Your vehicle can also be protected against a superstorm by having comprehensive coverage.

Keep reading to find out more about what superstorms are, how often they hit and what you can do to protect your property in case of an extreme weather event.

What Are Superstorms?

Superstorms are typically characterized by extreme winds, rain, snow or hail and are larger than the average hurricane and cause an excessive amount of damage, although, there is not a set definition for what a superstorm is.

An example of a superstorm would be Hurricane Sandy of 2012, also called Superstorm Sandy. The storm had winds around 40 miles per hour and stretched across 900 miles, three times the size of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Sandy began as a normal hurricane, drawing its power from warm waters and moving up the Gulf Stream. It then hooked towards New Jersey and New York and was met with a winter storm system. There, the energy changed from warm to cool and increased the size of the storm dramatically. The results were blizzards in the mountains and record-breaking storm surges on the coast.

Nearly 16 inches of rain will fall in the course of a month on the West Coast.

Is There a Superstorm Coming?

Superstorms tend to occur once every 10 years. However, The New York Times has recently released an article that suggests that a “megastorm” (a weather event significantly larger than a superstorm) could hit the West Coast some time soon, though the specific time frame is unknown.

A superstorm will likely occur during the winter months, originating near Hawaii. Atmospheric currents will pull water vapor from the ocean, generating atmospheric rivers, which will then be pushed toward the West Coast. The vapor is projected to be hundreds of miles wide, over 1,200 miles long and accompanied by excessive winds.

The New York Times article goes on to say that the amount of water would be 26 times more than what the Mississippi river moves into the Gulf of Mexico. This wall of mist will hit the mountains and shoot upward which will cause the vapor to cool, causing rain, snow and waves of colossal proportions. The surge  will happen several times, pummeling the West Coast, including its dams and levees. Nearly 16 inches of rain will fall in the course of a month, compared to an average of seven inches of rainfall a month in California, Oregon and Washington today.

Does Homeowners Insurance Protect Against Superstorms?

Homeowners insurance offers coverage that can help protect your home and possessions from superstorms. Coverage includes:

  • Dwelling Coverage - Provides financial protection against damages to your home and anything permanently attached such as cabinets, countertops, chimneys, decks, flooring, garage, roof and vanities.
  • Other structures - Provides financial protection against damages to structures not permanently attached to your home such as decks, driveways, fences, gazebos, patios, pergolas, sheds and unattached garages.
  • Personal possessions - Provides financial protection against damages or theft of your personal possessions such as clothes, certain electronics, furniture, and tools/power equipment. Coverage extends to belongings stored in a garage, shed, storage facility or your car.
  • Loss of use - Provides financial reimbursement should your dwelling be damaged to the point of being uninhabited. It will cover hotel costs, food expenses and rent. Keep receipts of your expenditures so you can submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.

Note: Certain limits may apply to your more expensive items such as jewelry, art, memorabilia, computers, and other expensive items. You’ll need a rider for these items.

Homeowners insurance will cover water damage to the interior of your home if water enters your home due to a covered peril such as a windstorm.

Covered Perils

Your homeowners policy will list covered perils which are events that your insurance plan will provide financial protection against should they cause damage to your home. Covered perils typically include:

  • Damage by aircraft
  • Damage by vehicles
  • Explosions
  • Falling trees or other objects
  • Fire/smoke
  • Lightning
  • Power surges
  • Theft
  • Tornadoes
  • Vandalism/riots
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Water damage (not naturally occurring floods)
  • Weight of ice, sleet or snow
  • Windstorms/hail

Homeowners insurance will typically not cover:

  • Earthquakes
  • Floods (may be required by your lender if you live in a flood plain)
  • Landslides
  • Mudslides
  • Sinkholes

Note: Homeowners insurance will cover water damage to the interior of your home if the water entered your home due to a covered peril such as a windstorm.

Other Insurance Types To Consider

Flood Insurance - Flood insurance can cover damage to your home's structure as well as personal property during a flood event. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) states that coverage is divided into two types; building coverage and contents coverage. Below is a breakdown of coverage between these two types as per the (NFIP). Building coverage includes:

  • Electrical and plumbing systems
  • Furnaces and water heaters
  • Refrigerators, cooking stoves and built-in appliances like dishwashers
  • Permanently installed carpeting
  • Permanently installed cabinets, paneling and bookcases
  • Window blinds
  • Foundation walls, anchorage systems and staircases
  • Detached garages
  • Fuel tanks, well water tanks and pumps and solar energy equipment

Content coverage includes:

  • Personal belongings such as clothing, furniture and electronic equipment
  • Curtains
  • Washer and dryer
  • Portable and window air conditioners
  • Microwave oven
  • Carpets not included in building coverage (e.g., carpet installed over wood floors)
  • Valuable items such as original artwork and furs (up to $2,500)

Flood insurance can be purchased from two different sources:

  • NFIP - These flood insurance policies are offered through private companies but are actually insured by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Private Insurance Companies - These are insurance companies that underwrite their own policies separate from the federal government.

Sinkhole Insurance - Sinkhole insurance is an insurance rider that covers your property and belongings in the event they’re lost to a sinkhole. A sinkhole typically occurs when water erodes away the ground under the surface. The result is a collapse that causes the surface to drop. Events like rainstorms and earthquakes.

Cars will typically be covered from natural disasters under your comprehensive coverage.

Renters Insurance - Renters insurance will provide coverage for you and your belongings while you’re renting property. Covered perils may include:

  • Damage by aircraft
  • Damage by vehicles
  • Explosions
  • Falling objects
  • Fire/smoke
  • Lightning
  • Freezing of home systems
  • Power surges
  • Smoke
  • Theft
  • Vandalism/riots
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Windstorms/hail
  • Weight of ice, sleet or snow

Renters insurance may also provide:

  • Personal property damage - Provides financial protection against damages to your personal possessions if the damage is covered by a named peril.
  • Additional living expenses -  Provides financial reimbursement should your dwelling be damaged to the point of being uninhabited. It will cover hotel costs and food expenses. Keep receipts of your expenditures so you can submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.
  • Additional coverage - Extra coverages extended under renters insurance could include:
    • Debris removal: Cost for removing debris from your property caused by a windstorm, for example, could be covered.
    • Food spoilage: Your insurance may cover food spoilage if it was caused by a covered peril. An example would be if there was a power outage caused by a windstorm, and food in the refrigerator spoiled.

Landlord Insurance - Landlord insurance provides coverage to those who rent out their property. Coverage includes:

  • Dwelling Coverage
  • Wind/Hail Coverage
  • Fair Rental Value Coverage (Covers lost income should your rental property be damaged and uninhabitable. Takes place during the repair process)

Is There Superstorm Insurance?

There is not a separate policy for a superstorm or a rider that provides additional coverage specifically for a superstorm. Instead, you will need to look at the possible damage a superstorm can cause to your property and purchase additional plans as shown above.

Note: The details of coverage mentioned above only lists details as they pertain to natural disasters and associated damages.

What About My Car?

Cars will typically be covered from natural disasters under your comprehensive coverage, which helps pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged by something other than a car accident. The Insurance Information Institute lists the following as covered perils:

  • Collisions with animals
  • Earthquakes
  • Explosions
  • Falling objects
  • Fires
  • Floods
  • Hail
  • Riots
  • Vandalism
  • Windstorms

How Often Do Superstorms Occur?

Superstorms are not a common occurrence, though they do seem to happen about once every decade. The last one was Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Superstorms are typically characterized by extreme winds, rain, snow or hail and are larger than the average hurricane.

Superstorm FAQs

Are floods covered by my homeowners insurance?

Whether or not homeowners insurance will cover a flood depends on what caused the flood. A naturally occurring flood will not typically be covered under your insurance policy, but water entering your home because of a covered peril like a tree falling on your home will be covered.

Will my landlord's insurance cover my property if it’s damaged by a storm?

Your landlord’s insurance will cover the property you are renting, including any items in the property that belong to him or her. It will not cover your possessions.

Is my vehicle covered if it’s damaged by a storm?

Damages to your vehicle may be covered in the event a storm occurs and you have comprehensive coverage.

Key Takeaways

  1. A superstorm is a weather event that causes excessive damage and covers a large amount of area. The last one was Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which stretched across 900 miles.
  2. The New York Times say a “mega storm” could hit the West Coast, causing a massive amount of destruction to homes and farmland.
  3. Damage to your car by a superstorm can be covered by your comprehensive coverage.

Whether you need to insure your home, rental property or your car from the coming storm, SmartFinancial has you covered. Enter your zip code below or call 855.214.2291 to receive free home, rental or auto insurance quotes from agents in your area.

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