The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. After a record-breaking 2020 season, the predictions for the 2021 hurricane season are again above-average:
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts 13 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 hurricanes, of which three to five are likely to become major hurricanes.
- The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project Team projects similar numbers with 17 named storms and eight hurricanes, four of which are predicted to become major hurricanes.
According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, a category 1 hurricane (the lowest on the scale) has sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour. That’s enough to damage your roof, shingles, gutter and vinyl siding. The storm surge can also cause flooding. A category 5 hurricane can cause catastrophic damage.
If you live in a region affected by hurricanes, you need the right type of insurance. That’s because there’s no one “hurricane insurance policy.” A standard home insurance policy won’t cover all hurricane-related problems. A good hurricane insurance plan is a combination of insurance policies to cover damage from the two most devastating elements of a hurricane: wind and water.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
|Category||Types of damage due to winds|
Types of damage due to winds
Very dangerous winds can cause some damage to homes, and extensive damage to power lines and poles could result in lost power for a few to several days.
Extremely dangerous winds can cause extensive damage to homes. Power loss is expected to last several days to weeks.
3 (major hurricane)
Devastating damage can cause major damage to homes. Electricity and water may not be available for several days to weeks.
4 (major hurricane)
Catastrophic damage can cause severe damage to homes. Power outages could last weeks to months.
5 (major hurricane)
Catastrophic damage can destroy homes with total roof failure and collapse. The affected area could be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Hurricane Water Damage
Water damage from hurricanes can be tricky. That’s because it can fall under two separate policies. Water damage from storms (such as wind-driven rain) that gets in through a damaged roof is typically covered by a homeowners insurance policy.
Hurricane Wind Damage
A standard homeowners insurance policy covers damage from wind in most states. But in some coastal states, homeowners will find that their policies partially or completely exclude wind-related damage.
If you live in a coastal area that’s prone to hurricanes, windstorm damage may be partially or completely excluded from your home insurance policy. You can typically get wind insurance as:
- An endorsement to your homeowners insurance. Your current homeowners insurance might offer a windstorm coverage endorsement. Note that windstorm coverage typically has a separate deductible for any damage caused by a hurricane or named storm (see below for more information on hurricane deductibles).
- A separate windstorm and hail policy. You may be able to purchase a separate policy to cover windstorm and hail damage in the voluntary market in your state.
- Through your state’s FAIR plan. You may be able to get wind insurance from your state’s FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plans). FAIR plans are typically meant to be an insurer of “last resort” through a state-run pool if you cannot find wind coverage through the voluntary market.
- Through your state’s Beach plan. A “Beach plan” is another option similar to a FAIR plan, but is only offered in specific coastal communities in Atlantic and Gulf states.
Here are some examples of FAIR plans and Beach plans:
- The Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association (Beach plan) offers wind- and hail-only policies for homes, condominiums, mobile homes and commercial businesses located in the Beach, Seacoast and Gulf Front territories of Baldwin and Mobile counties.
- The Insurance Placement Facility of Delaware offers windstorm and hail coverage to homeowners who cannot find it elsewhere.
- Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (CPIC) offers wind insurance if you are not able to get coverage from a Florida-authorized insurance company or if premiums are more than 15% higher than comparable coverage from CPIC.
- The Georgia Underwriting Association offers windstorm and hail damage to homeowners on offshore islands and certain counties.
- The Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation offers wind-only and hail-only policies to homeowners who cannot get a policy in the voluntary market.
- The Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association provides windstorm and hail coverage in the coastal counties of George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River and Stone.
- The New Jersey Insurance Underwriting Association covers wind for one- to four-family homes for which owners have not been able to find coverage elsewhere.
- The New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association includes windstorm coverage as part of its “extended coverage.” The Coastal Market Assistance Plan provides windstorm and hail coverage for homeowners on the south shore of Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island’s forks that are within one mile of the shore, and property on the north shore of Long Island, in the Bronx and Westchester within 2,500 feet of the shore.
- North Carolina Coastal Property Insurance Pool offers windstorm, hail and other coverage for residents located in 18 eligible coastal communities.
- The South Carolina Wind and Hail Underwriting Association offers windstorm and hail damage to homeowners who cannot find coverage elsewhere.
- The Texas Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Association provides wind and hail coverage to eligible homeowners. The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association offers wind and hail coverage in 14 coastal counties and five communities in Harris County.
How Does a Hurricane Deductible Work?
A deductible is the amount that’s subtracted from your insurance claims check. With a standard homeowners insurance policy, you might choose a deductible amount such as a $500 or $1,000 deductible. Hurricane deductibles work differently.
Hurricane deductibles are separate from your home insurance deductible and often paid in percentages, typically ranging between 1% to 5% of the insured value of the structure of your home. For example, if your house is insured for $300,000 and you have a 5% hurricane deductible, your insurance check will be reduced by $15,000.
A hurricane deductible is usually triggered when the National Hurricane Center, NOAA or U.S. National Weather Service names a storm. Naming a storm means that these organizations assign a name or number to a specific storm, such as Hurricane Laura or Tropical Storm Delta. Your specific trigger will depend on your insurance company and state.
Nineteen states currently allow some form of a hurricane or named storm deductible:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
How Do I Buy Flood Insurance?
Heavy rainfall, storm surges and storm tides are three major threats that can cause massive flooding during and after a hurricane. About 90% of natural disasters (especially hurricanes) in the U.S. involve flooding, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Unfortunately, damage from floods is excluded from a typical home insurance policy, meaning you’ll have to buy a separate flood insurance policy.
There are two ways to buy flood insurance:
- The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a federal plan managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If you want flood insurance through the NFIP, you’ll have to live in a participating community and purchase it through an insurance company that participates with the NFIP. Most homeowners who have flood insurance get it through FEMA.
- Private flood insurance is available through some insurance companies. It’s a good choice if you don’t live in a participating NFIP flood community or if you find the coverage through FEMA to be insufficient. You can buy private flood insurance as a stand-alone policy, or as an “excess” policy to supplement FEMA flood insurance.
Deductibles for FEMA flood insurance policies are separate for buildings and contents coverage, meaning you’ll have to pay two deductibles if you have both coverage types and make a claim for both. Deductibles can range from $1,000 to $10,000.
Private flood insurance deductibles may be similar to FEMA policies and have separate deductibles for both buildings and content coverage. However, private flood policies might have more deductible choices. For example, Neptune Flood Insurance offers deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $25,000.
How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?
The cost of flood insurance depends on several factors, including:
- Your location
- Your flood risk
- The age of your home
- How much coverage you purchase
- Your deductible amount
The average premium for residential NFIP flood insurance in 2019 was $700. But the NFIP has promised lower flood insurance rates and is expected to announce its new “Risk Rating 2.0” by Oct. 1, 2021.
How Can I Lower Hurricane Insurance Costs?
If you take steps to mitigate storm damage, you might qualify for insurance discounts, depending on your insurance company and state. For example, in Louisiana, homeowners who build or retrofit their homes to comply with the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code may be eligible for insurance discounts.
Storm mitigation improvements and construction techniques include:
- Building design
- Roof bracing
- Secondary water barriers
- Opening protection
- Roof-to-wall strength
- Roof deck attachment
- Roof covering
- Wall-to-floor-to-foundation strengthening
- Window, door and skylight strengthening
- Other techniques that might reduce the risk of loss due to wind
It’s a good idea to speak with your home insurance agent before you begin any costly construction projects to determine if you’ll qualify for insurance discounts.
The Hurricane Aftermath
Unfortunately, like other natural disasters, the aftermath of a hurricane typically brings out scammers looking to take advantage of homeowners who are trying to sort through devastating damage. And when there’s widespread damage, qualified and reliable contractors are often in short supply.
Still, don’t rush into signing a contract for repairs, says the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The group says most repair scams start with an unsolicited offer of help—someone who approaches you and says they can do your repairs.
Scammers will typically demand money upfront, but they’ll do shoddy work or no work at all and disappear. The NICB has these tips for homeowners who need to hire a contractor after a disaster:
- Get more than one repair estimate before you hire anyone.
- Ask for references and follow through by checking them.
- Don’t let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.
- Get everything in writing, including the work that will be done, time for completion, guarantees and of course the cost.
- Don’t sign a contract that has blank fields because unacceptable terms could be added later by a scammer.
- Don’t pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is done and you know that it’s up to code.
- If you don’t understand your insurance policy, get help from your insurance agent. Don’t let a contractor interpret your policy.
- A contractor shouldn’t discourage you from contacting your insurance company. If they do, it’s another red flag.
Hurricane Insurance FAQ
Does hurricane insurance cover damage to vehicles?
Hurricane insurance will not cover damage to vehicles. For example, if high winds knock over a tree and it lands on your car, or your car is damaged by flood water, you won’t be covered by wind, flood or homeowners insurance.
If you want coverage for your car for problems like falling objects, hail and floods, you’ll need to buy comprehensive car insurance.
Is there a waiting period to buy hurricane insurance?
A good hurricane insurance plan includes flood insurance. If you purchase a policy from FEMA, expect a 30-day waiting period (with a few exceptions). Some private flood insurance policies, such as Zurich Residential Private Flood Insurance, do not have a waiting period.
If your home insurance excludes hurricane windstorm damage, you may need to purchase an endorsement or a separate policy, which may have its own waiting period.
What should I do to prepare for hurricane season?
Hurricane season runs from June through November. It’s a good idea to get your home insurance in order well before the season starts. That’s because a standard home insurance policy does not include damage from floods, and windstorm damage may be excluded if you live in a hurricane-prone area.
If you need to purchase separate policies (like flood insurance) you can expect a waiting period of up to 30 days before coverage kicks in.
Here are some steps you can take to prepare for hurricane season.