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    Insurance | 2 min read

    RIP, Frosty: How Melting Snow Can Increase Flood Risk for Your Insureds

    Many parts of the eastern coast rang in 2022 with thundersnow—that’s right, thundersnow. If you’ve never heard of it, this rare phenomenon occurs when weather patterns characteristic of a rainstorm, such as thunder and lightning, are instead accompanied by heavy snow. The same storm system was responsible for dumping more than a foot of snow across Delaware and southern New Jersey, while parts of Maryland experienced an accumulation of 15.5 inches.

    The severity of winter storms is only expected to increase with the effects of climate change. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “The frequency of extreme snowstorms in the eastern two-thirds of the contiguous United States has increased over the past century. Approximately twice as many extreme U.S. snowstorms occurred in the latter half of the 20th century than the first.”

    As if surviving a winter storm wasn’t stressful enough, did you know that snowmelt can increase the risk of flooding for your insureds? That foot of snow it took to build Frosty has to go somewhere, and unfortunately, it often ends up running off beneath homes or in basements, which can lead to flood damage. Since flooding isn’t typically covered by homeowners insurance, this is helpful information to share with your clients.

    Homeowners Insurance Won’t Cover Snow Melt

    Homeowners insurance is great for providing important protection for your insureds’ home in most situations. It’s important to note, however, that flooding is not one of the covered situations. This is as true for flooding damage caused by melting snow as it is for flood damage from a hurricane, and it is critical information to share with your insureds.

    How Melting Snow Could Lead to Flooding

    When temperatures rise following a snowstorm, the melting snow seeps into the earth. As the ground becomes oversaturated, it could leak into your home from below. The biggest risk occurs when the temperature rises quickly, creating a “fast melt.” When this occurs, the water doesn’t have a chance to drain, and flooding is more likely.

    From an insurance perspective for your homeowners insurance clients, this is considered flood damage. In this case, flood insurance offers the best protection.

    Water Damage vs. Flood Damage from Melting Snow and Ice

    If your insured’s home incurs damage from melting snow, and the water is coming from above ground (such as a melting icicle), the resulting damage may be covered by their homeowners insurance.

    According to The Nest, “In the world of insurance, flooding and water damage are not the same thing. A flood is rising water moving over what's normally dry ground. Water damage is caused by water that hasn't touched the ground. If snow comes in through a broken window and melts on your computer, that's water damage, which homeowners insurance covers. If snowdrifts in your garden melt, homeowners insurance won't pay for any flooding damage. Flood insurance will.”

    Conclusion

    We live at a time when natural disasters are occurring more and more frequently. While the future may be hard to predict, you can help arm your homeowners insurance clients with the information and resources they need to protect their property in any scenario.

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    Tyreo Harrison

    As Executive Vice President, Lending & Insurance Solutions, Ty Harrison leads teams of lending and insurance professionals that are dedicated to delivering value-added programs, services and technology tailored to address the needs of lenders, loan servicers, portfolio managers, mortgage brokers, insurance agents and insurance brokers.

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