At the time of writing, it’s a sweltering 101* outside my window in San Antonio, Texas. In other words, the dog days of summer have arrived.
I’ll be honest, when Winter Storm Uri—or as I like to call it, the Snowpocalypse—hit Texas back in February, I wasn’t prepared. None of us in the state—from families to employers to energy companies—were prepared.
The thing is, it usually doesn’t get that cold in Texas. This year was the first time either of my kids had ever even seen a snow shovel, much less have to use one. Water pipes and other critical infrastructure elements down here are only built to withstand mild winters. We don’t know how to drive when it freezes because it’s not supposed to get below freezing and stay there for over a week in Texas.
Except, it did.
The frequency, scale, and dollars in damage caused by natural disasters are increasing at a startling rate due to the effects of climate change. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admiration, (NOAA), the 2020 hurricane season broke all previous records with 30 named storms and 12 landfalling storms striking the U.S. This made 2020 the fifth consecutive year with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.
The unfortunate fact is, floods and other natural disasters are becoming commonplace. Knowing what to expect, having a plan in place, and ensuring your home and possessions are protected will help you and your family prepare for surviving a severe weather event with your peace of mind intact.
Preparing for a Severe Weather Event—Before
It’s important to have an evacuation plan in place before you ever need to leave your home in an actual emergency. Make sure to tune in to local broadcasts to remain aware of severe weather and evacuation warnings.
Being prepared and knowing what to do when a hurricane or other natural disaster strikes can make a difference when there are only seconds to react. Plan for different emergencies, create and communicate evacuation plans with your family and/or friends, and have emergency supply kits on hand for home, work, and vehicles. Be sure to communicate a plan as a family and discuss different scenarios. You may not be together when disaster strikes, so be sure to discuss how you will communicate.
Related Reading: Preparing for Catastrophic Disasters
Minimizing Damage Caused By a Severe Weather Event—During
High winds during hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe storms can turn your lawn and property into a disaster zone. Much of the damage to homes experienced during a hurricane or other storm occurs because wind can damage windows, doors, and roofs, allowing water to enter the home. Here are some steps you can take to help minimize property damage during a severe weather event:
- Trim trees and branches that could fall on your house, cars, or other critical property.
- Install storm shutters to protect your windows from damage. In a pinch, you can fix plywood panels to your windows by nailing them to window frames before a storm approaches.
- Make sure doors have at least three hinges and a deadbolt lock that is at least one inch long. This will go a long way to ensuring the structural integrity and reducing the risk of your door blowing away.
- During a storm, sliding glass doors should be covered with shutters or plywood. These types of doors are more vulnerable to wind damage than most other doors.
- Seal outside wall openings such as vents, outdoor electrical outlets, and locations where cables or pipes go through the wall with waterproof calking material.
Recovering from a Severe Weather Event—After
Some of the most common post-disaster expenses include:
- Mold: Mold is a hazard to both people and property and can spread over any material that stays wet for more than two days.
- Gas and electric lines: Floods can move damaged natural gas lines, and exposure to moisture can cause corrosion to wires and other metals.
- Building foundations: Flooding can shift or separate foundations, causing structural damage to walls and floors
- Roof: High winds can cause damage to or loss of shingles, underlayment, roof decking, chimneys, and turbine vents.
- Ceilings: High winds and rain can lead to roof leaks and ceiling damage or collapse; leaks in walls; wet insulation; window and door leaks.
- Windows and doors: Damage to or pop-out of windows and doors—especially sliding glass doors—is particularly common with flooding and high wind scenarios.
If you’ve been affected by flood damages, be sure to review your flood insurance policies and their limits before starting recovery efforts. Be sure to take photos, and contact your insurance company promptly to report your damages.
Protecting Your Home and Property with Flood Insurance
Floods, particularly those associated with hurricanes and tropical storms, are the most common natural disaster in the country. According to FEMA, a mere inch of floodwater in your home can result in over $25,000 in property damage! Despite this, homeowners insurance does not cover damages caused by flooding.
Flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) typically offers coverage of up to $250,000 toward the cost of rebuilding or replacing your home, which falls under “building property” coverage. This includes insurance for your physical home and its foundation, electrical and plumbing systems, air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters, built-in kitchen appliances, wallboard and paneling, carpeting, permanent cabinets and bookcases, window blinds, detached garages, and debris removal.
In addition to the cost of the home itself, flooding causes calamitous losses to personal property. Clothing, electronics, appliances, and furniture are often lost or ruined beyond the hope of repair. The NFIP policy covers $100,000 for belongings lost in a flood. For a household of four or more, that price can quickly exceed the $100,000 limit.
Private Flood Insurance
Private and excess flood insurance goes above and beyond the standard coverage limits of the NFIP. Depending on the policy, excess coverage can cover the total cost of rebuilding a home of any size or expense. It can also cover the cost to replace stand-alone contents that may be valued above the NFIP limits.
The program also covers funding for your family's living expenses to help you through the transition process. If you have to temporarily relocate, private insurance may provide for short-term housing. Depending on the policy, you could also potentially purchase coverage for items or areas not covered through NFIP.
Flood insurance is the primary financial resource for most homeowners when it comes to rebuilding or repairing damages caused by flooding, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re covered if disaster strikes is invaluable.
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.