Hurricane-related damages are on the rise in the United States. Five of the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history — Harvey, Maria, Sandy, Ida, and Irma — happened within the last 10 years. Preliminary damage totals from 2022’s Hurricane Ian suggest it will also be a record-setting storm. In fact, from Texas to Maine, every state on the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts has experienced a direct hit from a hurricane. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the risk is especially high in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina.
Hurricane damage may not be covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies, but there are other options for homeowners in hurricane-prone areas. Learn more about hurricane insurance, the kinds of hurricane damages that are and are not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies, and how to get hurricane coverage.
How to Protect Your Home From a Hurricane
When a hurricane strikes, it may cause multiple forms of damage. Homeowners who live in hurricane-prone areas should seek coverage for the following types of damages:
- Wind damage: Hurricane-force winds and blown debris can damage homes or destroy them completely. Wind-related damages include broken windows, collapsed walls, and broken shingles and gutters.
- Water damage: Hurricanes bring heavy rain, which can be blown through broken windows or damaged roofs. This water could cause structural damage to the home or its contents, such as furniture and electronics.
- Flood damage: High winds may cause storm surges in coastal areas, and heavy rainfall may lead to inland flooding. In either case, floodwaters can cause significant damage to a home’s structure and contents.
- Sewer backups: Flood waters may overwhelm wastewater systems, which allows sewage to overflow into homes. Contaminated items, such as carpeting and furniture, may need to be replaced.
Is Hurricane Damage Covered By Standard Home Insurance?
Standard homeowners insurance policies generally offer coverage for wind and water damage, both of which can result from a hurricane. However, in some hurricane-prone areas, private insurance companies may not sell policies that cover windstorm damage because of the increased risk.
It should also be noted that in some areas, insurers may exclude damages that result from a hurricane, even if the peril is otherwise covered. For example, even if wind damage is covered, the insurer may specifically exclude wind damage from a hurricane. Check your policy to find out if your homeowner’s insurance includes or excludes these types of damages.
Hurricane Coverage for Water Damage
Some types of water damage are covered by homeowners insurance policies. This includes damage from sudden and accidental events inside the home, such as burst pipes. Policies that cover windstorm damage may also cover water damage that results from wind, such as rain coming through a wind-damaged roof. Depending on your policy, this may extend to rain damage during a hurricane.
However, no standard homeowner’s insurance policies covers water damage from flooding, including flooding caused by excess rainfall or a storm surge. This type of water damage can be costly: Just 6 inches of floodwater can cause $52,037 in damages to a 2,500-square foot, single-level house. In fact, floods tend to cause more damage during a hurricane than the wind itself.
Homeowners can add flood coverage through stand-alone flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and private insurers. These policies can help cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding a home after a flood, and may also cover sewer backups that are directly caused by hurricane-related flooding.
NFIP flood coverage is capped at $250,000 for a home’s structure and $100,000 for its contents. Some private insurers sell supplemental flood insurance that helps cover damages above and beyond the NFIP limits. Flood insurance premiums may vary depending on location, flood risk, and the amount of coverage, but NFIP policies cost an annual average of $1,875 in 2021.
Hurricane Coverage for Wind Damage
Standard homeowner’s insurance policies generally help cover the cost of repairs if a home is damaged by a windstorm. This could include both damages from the wind itself and from flying debris, as well as rainwater that’s blown into a wind-damaged home.
However, in some hurricane-prone areas such as coastal Texas, homeowners may have trouble finding a policy that covers windstorm damage at all, whether or not it is from a hurricane. Insurers that sell homeowners insurance policies in high-risk areas may specifically exclude coverage for wind damage. Homeowners in these areas may be able to buy wind insurance as a stand-alone policy, either through a private company or a state-backed insurer of last resort, which are insurers that sell policies to those considered extremely high risk.
The cost of insuring a high-risk home through a state’s insurer of last resort can vary. For example, the average cost of windstorm coverage through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which covers homeowners in coastal areas, is about $1,750. The average wind-only premium through Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is nearly twice as high, at $3,097 annually.
What Are Named Storm and Hurricane Deductibles?
A named storm and hurricane deductible is the amount of money homeowners are responsible for paying toward a covered disaster, which is typically separate from the policy’s standard deductible. Standard deductibles for homeowner’s insurance policies are typically flat amounts, such as $1,000. In hurricane-prone states, however, policies may include separate deductibles for storms that are powerful enough to become named. In general, storms are named once they have sustained winds of 39 miles per hour or higher.
The deductibles that apply to hurricane damages tend to be higher than the standard deductible for other perils. Often, hurricane-related deductibles are 1% to 10% of the home’s insured value. For example, if a home is insured for $300,000 with a 5% hurricane deductible, the homeowner would be responsible for $15,000 out of pocket before their insurance kicks in if their home is damaged by a hurricane.
The triggers for hurricane-related deductibles can vary from state to state. A hurricane deductible may apply when the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a hurricane warning, while a named storm deductible may apply when the NWS names a tropical storm. For details about when named storm and hurricane deductibles take effect, check your policy.
How Expensive Is Hurricane Insurance in Florida and Other High-Risk States?
Homeowners who are shopping for hurricane coverage in high-risk coastal states may be surprised by the costs of homeowners insurance, flood insurance, and windstorm insurance. Louisiana and Florida in particular have recently received media attention for rising property insurance costs.
In Florida, insurance costs have risen about 25% in the last year, and in Louisiana, costs have doubled in some flood-prone areas. These increases are due, in part, to recent destructive storms: Louisiana was struck by 4 major hurricanes in 2020 and 2021. Insurers are also paying out more to repair or rebuild homes due to the rising cost of building materials.
Homeowners who live in high-risk states may worry about budgeting for hurricane coverage. Some strategies to keep costs down include:
- Installing wind-mitigation features: Making use of storm shutters, wind-resistant roofing, and other upgrades that improve a home’s ability to withstand wind can translate to lower insurance costs.
- Making flood-resistant upgrades: Modifications that help reduce the potential for flood damage may lower insurance costs. Consider installing flood-resistant flooring or moving utilities to a higher floor.
- Choosing a higher deductible: Homeowners who opt for higher deductibles can lower their premiums, but keep in mind that this means taking responsibility for more rebuilding costs if a hurricane occurs.
Increasing Threat of Hurricanes to Homeowners
|2021 Storm Name||Category||Damages||States Affected|
|Ida||4||$75 billion||Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania|
|Fred||TS||$1.3 billion||Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina|
|Elsa||1||$1.2 billion||Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina|
|Nicholas||1||$1 billion||Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas|
|Henri||1||$700 million||Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island|
|Claudette||TS||$375 million||Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi|
As more Americans move to coastal areas, hurricanes become an increasing threat: More than 32 million homes are now at risk of hurricane wind damage. Potential property damage in a given storm can be estimated based on its wind speed, which is how storm strength is defined:
- Tropical Depression: 38 mph or less
- Tropical Storm: 39 to 73 mph
- Category 1 Hurricane: 74 to 95 mph
- Category 2 Hurricane: 96 to 110 mph
- Category 3 Hurricane: 111 to 129 mph
- Category 4 Hurricane: 130 to 156 mph
- Category 5 Hurricane: 157 mph or higher
On this scale, higher winds are associated with higher potential damages. However, the scale does not account for other hurricane-related damages, such as storm surges and rainfall flooding. Even tropical storms can cause significant damage.
How to Buy Hurricane Coverage
Hurricane season officially starts on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30; however, storms can form outside this window. Depending on a home’s location, some types of hurricane damage may be covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies. Additional policies, such as flood or windstorm insurance, may be necessary for full coverage. Work with a trusted insurance agent to choose a policy or combination of policies that offer financial protection from hurricane damage.
Available coverage limits can vary, but if possible, consider buying enough coverage to rebuild your home and replace your possessions. The cost of rebuilding a home may not be the same as its real estate value, so ask your insurer or agent for guidance. To estimate how much it might cost to replace your home’s contents, make an inventory of your belongings and reference receipts.
Another thing to note is that newly purchased flood or windstorm policies may not take effect right away. For example, NFIP policies have a 30-day waiting period before coverage kicks in. Consider waiting periods when shopping for coverage to ensure your policy is active before the hurricane season gets underway.