As we head into the hurricane season officially on Friday, we’ve already seen our first named storm. Something consumers need to be aware of is that the weather patterns are changing, and they do not discriminate on destructive patterns. Our area saw a longer than average winter pattern with more wintry weather this past season from years past. We really didn’t have a transitional Spring period either, we’ve jumped into August heat in MAY!
So what does this have to do with your insurance? Well for one, the insurance industry pays attention to these patterns when it comes to calculating your rate. Also, it’s all inter-connected, so damage from weather in other parts of the country, or even world, can affect the rate you pay locally. What we come across a lot is complacency when it comes to weather related damage. However, when devastating weather does hit, that complacency goes away and is usually changed out for surprise with coverage. Carriers are similar in some things, but not in everything. Endorsements, limits of liability, and deductibles can vary between carriers. How it affects you as the consumer is something you need to pay attention too. Understand that the deductible you choose has a dollar figure attached to it; that is what you are responsible for before insurance kicks in. The statement that you either pay more now or later could not be more truthful. If you take a higher deductible, you pay less premium, however, your responsibility is higher. So be wary and only take a deductible you can realistically afford to handle in the event of a claim.
So what kinds of weather-type damage can you expect to see based on the newer weather patterns?
- Hail Damage – we have seen an uptick in hail storms in the last couple years, and every storm seems to deliver more damage than the last. We had a bad hail storm in March, so it can happen at any time of the year.
- Wind Damage – not only have been seen an influx in severe thunderstorms packing a punch in intensity and frequency, we’ve also seen an increase in wind driven damage, even from the normal “windy days”.
- Tornadoes – fortunately the last “big” tornado event for the beach was back in 2001. However, we have seen an increase in tornadoes generally in our area the last couple years. Tornadoes can happen any time of the year with the right weather conditions. These super cell storms have other dangers built in other than tornadoes – they can bring straight line winds and micro-bursts that can be just as devastating as a tornado itself.
- Flooding – to be clear, EVERYONE is in a flood zone, not everyone is in a high risk flood zone. FEMA has mapped our area, so no property is immune. Interestingly enough, most of the flood damage we’ve seen in the last 2 years locally, and nationally, has been in the flood zone X. Flood zone X is the lower risk flood zone, often named the “preferred risk” flood zone. Essentially all it means is compared to zone A (standard) and zone V (high risk), it’s the least likely to flood. It does not mean however that the zone can’t or won’t flood. Lenders don’t require flood insurance for properties in this zone, so it gives a false security that you aren’t “in a flood zone”, but rest assured you are. Flood insurance is something everyone needs to at least get a rate on and be informed. The historical flooding events are now so frequent that it’s likely to see the same areas flood within months. Prime example – Socastee area flooded in 2015 and 2016, the same subdivisions were affected by it. Nichols was inundated with flooding, and both locations are zone X. Part of the problem of increased flooding risk is the increase in housing and road construction. When you remove dirt, the water flow changes, so it puts areas around the construction as higher risk.
- Earthquakes – something we don’t often think about, but South Carolina does sit on a fault line; we’ve had minor earthquakes this year. Many homeowners carriers offer this coverage as an additional endorsement that can be added, and there are also stand alone markets available for the carriers that don’t. Most times this will not be automatically included, so it’s a conversation you as the consumer need to have with your agent.
It’s important to be educated, and understand what coverage you do and don’t have; how it comes in to play when disaster strikes. Something to remember is that you can’t compare what you have to what someone else has. No two risks are the same.