'Paralyzing' Snow Storms: How Insurance Can Help

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Parts of western and northern New York are projected to get up to six feet of snow, and headlines are calling this snow storm “paralyzing.” CNN even called it “historic,” explaining that heavy snowfall threatens to bring down trees, damage property and knock out power. It’s important to consider how severe weather events like this one may affect your home and car now that severe winter storms are becoming the norm.

In New York, snow may come down at three inches an hour, in a rare event called “thundersnow,” when lightning occurs within a snow storm. The National Weather Service has also issued a lake-effect snow warning for the Buffalo area on Wednesday, describing the storm as a “potential high-impact, long-duration lake snow event.”

Climate change has warmed most bodies of water, creating heavy precipitation of snow and ice, in this case in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. When cool air moves over warm bodies of water, it creates moisture and precipitation, so snowstorms like this can affect many states on the coast this winter.

About six million people in five Great Lakes states, from Michigan to New York, are under snow alerts as of November 18, 2022. Flights have been canceled, schools closed and commercial traffic has been banned on some roads.

Now, imagine dealing with a damaged home and car on your own, without an insurance company backing you financially! Here’s what you need to know about storm damage, how your home and car may be affected by severe storms and when you are covered by insurance.

Damages Caused by Snow Storms and ‘Thunder Snow’

Trees go down, falling on cars, homes and commercial buildings. The roads are dangerous, and those who do not follow the curfew are very prone to having a car accident. Here are some winter-related events from last year and whether or not they would’ve been covered by home insurance.

Winter storms these days include heavy snowfall that threatens to bring down trees, damage property and knock out power.

2021 Natural Disasters Related to Snowstorms

Natural Disasters in the U.S


Covered by Homeowners Insurance?



Yes, in the case of freezing pipes, heavy snow



Yes, in the case of freezing pipes, heavy snow, downed heating systems



Yes, but you may have a separate wind deductible

Homeowners Insurance and Heavy Snow Storms

After a storm, you are covered by homeowners insurance for many related damages, like the following.

  • Roof damage due to heavy snow: If your roof collapses due the weight of snow you are covered by home insurance.
  • Frozen pipes and home systems: If your pipes freeze or your heating and cooling systems are damaged due to a storm, you are covered.
  • Water damage: If snow melts and damages your roof, you may be covered but you are excluded from flood damage with a home insurance policy. You’d need a separate flood policy to be covered.
  • Falling trees: If a tree falls on your roof after a storm, you are covered by home insurance, whether it was your tree or a neighbor’s. The only difference would be that if the tree is your neighbor’s property, your insurance company will recoup the payout they give you, minus your deductible, from your neighbor’s insurer.
  • Slip and falls: If someone slips and falls on icy conditions on your property, you are covered by the liability portion of your home insurance policy. Household members, however, are not covered.
  • Wind damage to your roof or other parts of your home are covered by home insurance, but you may be subject to a wind deductible depending on where you live.

You are covered by homeowners insurance for frozen pipes, roof damage, water damage, wind damage, falling trees and slips and falls on ice.

Comprehensive Car Insurance and Heavy Snow Storms

  • If a tree damages your car in the snowstorm, comprehensive car insurance coverage will cover the cost of repairs, whether it was your tree or a neighbor’s. If any other peril related to the storm damages your car you are covered as well.
  • If you are in an accident caused by weather conditions and are considered at-fault, your liability coverage will pay for damages to the other driver’s car and injuries to the driver and passengers. You will only be covered for damages to your own car if you have collision coverage. Your injuries and those of your passengers would be covered by MedPay, if you have it, or your health insurance policy.
  • If a snow plow damages your car, you would file a claim like you would any car accident. You will be covered, and your car insurance company will recoup the loss from the other party’s insurer. You may even get your deductible back.

When To Avoid the Roads

It’s a good idea to avoid driving once a big storm is projected to hit your area. Definitely do not drive during a thunder-snow storm! With snowfall measuring in feet, it’s best to stay home until a storm passes and the roads are safe again. If you can’t avoid driving, do so with extreme caution and at slow speeds. Here are some more driving tips for winter weather conditions.

Driving Tips

  • Drive slowly.
  • Don’t crowd a snow plow on the road.
  • Don’t travel beside a snow plow.
  • Be careful passing a snow plow.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly.
  • Increase the distance between cars.
  • Don’t power up on a hill but do create inertia before approaching the hill.
  • If stuck in snow, make sure to clear your exhaust pipe before turning on the heat and only run it for short periods of time to stay warm. Turn on interior lights, hazards.

Collision and comprehensive car insurance will pay for itself many times over if you are in an accident.

Snow Storms FAQs

If my car is damaged due to a flood caused by melted snow am I covered?

If you have comprehensive coverage, you are covered if your car is damaged due to a flood caused by melted snow or if ice falls and breaks your windshield.

Does homeowners insurance cover floods caused by melted snow?

Unfortunately, melted snow can cause a flood, which is only covered with a flood insurance policy. Your car, however, may be covered with comprehensive car insurance.

Does snow damage cars?

No, snow doesn’t seriously damage cars but the salt used on roads can corrode the brakes, the exhaust pipe and more if you don’t wash it frequently during winter.

Key Takeaways

  • Stay home and avoid driving once a heavy snowstorm is in motion.
  • Get protected with homeowners insurance in case a heavy snowstorm or ‘thunder snow’ damages your home.
  • Get protected with the right car insurance coverages in case you have an accident or your car is damaged by the storm.

Winter storms can be financially devastating if you don’t have the right insurance. Car insurance, with coverages like collision and comprehensive, will pay for itself many times over if you are in an accident. Otherwise, you may have to pay for repairs on your own. Your home, too, is at risk of snow and wind, so having the right home insurance is also vital, even if it’s not legally required. The good news is that you can save up to 25% by bundling home and auto. So start comparing car insurance quotes and tell the agent of your choosing that you want to get a rate quote for a bundled package that includes home insurance!

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