As the remnants of Hurricane Ida churns inland, it serves as a stark reminder to coastal residents to stay prepared for future storms. Although Texas was spared, Louisiana suffered its third major hurricane in the last year. Unfortunately, Ida may not be the last storm to threaten the Gulf Coast in 2021, and as a reminder, September is the peak of hurricane risk for Texas. Overall, at least 64 named storms have made landfall in Texas since record keeping began, and as many Texans remember, some of those storms have been devastating.
The last major hurricane to hit Texas was in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey roared ashore near Rockport, Texas, as a Category 5 hurricane, ultimately claiming over 100 lives and damaging an estimated 300,000 structures and 500,000 vehicles in Texas alone. Overall, damages from Harvey totaled in the hundreds of billions of dollars, including nearly $20 billion in insured losses in Texas, with over half the insured losses being due to flooding.
Texas coastal property and business owners must be prepared for when the next hurricane hits. Not only does this mean having an evacuation plan – knowing where and how you will move inland should an evacuation order be issued – but also an emergency supplies kit ready to grab and go. Ready.gov instructs that an emergency kit should include – at a minimum – a three-day supply of food and water, a battery powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit, extra batteries and cell phone chargers, materials like plastic sheeting and duct tape should you need to shelter in place and supplies to keep yourself clean and healthy. Other items, such as prescription medications or supplies for your pets, may be necessary too.
In addition to being ready to evacuate, it is important to make sure you have the right insurance coverages in place before a storm threatens. Coastal residents often need multiple policies in place to protect themselves against tropical storms and hurricanes. For many on the coast, windstorm insurance is a separate policy which covers damages to homes and businesses from wind and hail events. Private Texas insurers write the majority – approximately 63 percent – of wind policies along the coast, in addition to writing homeowners, auto, and business insurance.
If homeowners or businesses are unable to find wind coverage with a private market insurer, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) operates as the “insurer of last resort” for wind insurance in 14 Tier 1 coastal counties. Regardless of who writes the wind coverage, once a named storm enters the Gulf of Mexico, windstorm insurance is no longer available for purchase until the storm subsides.
Another important consideration is the increased costs of construction and the amount needed to rebuild or restore your home after a storm. Check your policy and consider whether your policy limits provide enough coverage to rebuild after significant damage to your home. Contact your insurance company or agent to discuss if you have enough insurance in place.
Other coverages to consider:
Auto. Comprehensive coverage for your vehicle protects you in the event of a flood loss. During Hurricane Harvey, nearly one-half million vehicles were flooded resulting in over $2 billion in auto insured losses. Comprehensive coverage is optional on auto policies, so talk with your agent or insurer to determine your specific needs.
Flood. Even if you are not located in a designated flood zone, flood insurance is still an option. During Hurricane Harvey, over 50% of homes damaged by flooding were not in a flood zone. Flood insurance typically takes 30 days to take effect, so this is another coverage where property owners need to plan ahead. Most flood policies are provided through the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). For more information on flood insurance visit fema.gov.
If your home, business, or auto is damaged after a storm, there are actions you should take to file your claim, mitigate any damages, and avoid becoming the victim of fraud.
• Assess and document all damages to your property and contact your insurer.
• If needed, and if possible, make any temporary repairs to reduce or prevent further damage. Be sure to keep your receipts for any materials purchased to make the temporary repairs.
• Unfortunately, after any major storm, there are unscrupulous contractors seeking to take advantage of the situation. Be wary of solicitors offering quick fixes, too-good-to-be-true prices and illegal promises to waive your deductible. Get written estimates, check online reviews and references, and don’t pay up front for repairs. Report any suspected fraud to your insurer or to the Texas Department of Insurance Fraud Unit, report fraud online or or by calling the TDI Fraud Unit Help Line at 800-252-3439.
The National Weather Service, is a great resource to stay abreast of weather updates. What to do After A Loss is an ICT web page offering infographics, resources covering Texas’ costliest storms and more information. For more hurricane season resources, visit ICT’s Hurricane Central page on insurancecouncil.org.