Since the 2004 hurricane season, we are all much more aware of the devastation that a hurricane can leave in its wake. We are also much more aware of the need for insurance against hurricane damage.
Here's the good news: Hurricane insurance is available. Here's the bad news: your regular homeowners insurance policy will not normally include the coverage you need for hurricanes.
If you don't know a lot about hurricanes themselves, here are a few facts: A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of 74 miles per hour or more. Hurricane winds blow in a large spiral around a relative calm center known as the "eye." The "eye" is generally 20 miles to 30 miles wide, and the storm may extend outward 400 miles. August and September are peak months during the North American hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 through November 30.
Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:
Tropical Depression- An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less. Tropical Depressions do not normally result in damage.
Tropical Storm- An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 mph to 73 mph (34-63 knots). A large tropical storm can leave damage in it's wake, but it will not be as serious or widespread as a hurricane.
Hurricane- An intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. These are the deadliest of the cyclones, and they often result in damage to property and lives.
The hurricanes that typically affect the US form in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea. As a result, populations along the southern and eastern seaboards of the continental US are the most prone to hurricane damage, although there have been notable exceptions caused by hurricanes moving inland.
In most cases, you will not be buying something called hurricane insurance. What you will be buying is additional coverages or policies for windstorm damage and water or flood damage. As you might expect, the biggest issues with hurricanes are wind and flood damage. This is where you will need to review your policy carefully, and ensure that you have the correct additional coverage. You may even want to speak with a broker or insurance agent to discuss your options.
One thing to watch for is your windstorm or hurricane deductible. In general, this deductible is expressed as either a dollar amount or a percentage of the insured value of your home. It does NOT depend on the amount of your loss. As with all insurance coverage, if you pick a higher deductible, you will lower your insurance premium. However, if you pick a higher deductible, be ready for that money out of pocket! Consider putting aside an amount equal to your deductible, so that you will be ready in case of a claim.