It’s hurricane season again: are you covered?
If you’ve ever heard a summer weather forecast – sunny, highs in the mid-80s, chance of late afternoon thundershowers – you might decide that it’s not too hard to be a meteorologist.
But when it comes to predicting hurricanes, the process is highly scientific, utilizing analog data, statistical models, atmospheric conditions and ocean temperatures.
That said, 2020 has been a year of events few could have predicted – and that includes a flurry of early hurricane activity.
As of June 5, three named storms have already formed in the Atlantic – Arthur, Bertha and Cristobal – the first two in May and the earliest on record for the “C” storm. Officially, hurricane season doesn’t even begin until June 1.
“As much as science helps set the stage, hurricanes can be unpredictable when it comes to direction and timing,” said Robin Price, president of Allen Tate Insurance. “And the minute a hurricane is on the radar, it’s too late to get hurricane insurance.”
A classic example of hurricane unpredictability was Hugo, who stormed the Carolinas in 1989. It weakened to a Category 2, picked up strength and hit Charleston as a Category 4 with 140 mph winds and then hit Charlotte six hours later with winds of 54 mph and gusts up to 87 mph.
Insurance companies restrict binding new coverage when a hurricane is sighted – even for inland property where the likelihood of landfall is slim.
So what does restricted binding mean to you as a consumer?
If you are a current homeowner, and your home is hit by a hurricane, you are most likely insured for the typical coverage perils: wind, hail, lightning and fire. But you only have flood coverage if you have a separate policy that specifically covers flooding, and you can’t get that once a hurricane or flood has been forecasted.
If you are trying to close on a home and you need insurance coverage, your closing could be delayed. If there is a storm in your area and you have not already confirmed insurance coverage is in place, you will not be able to obtain coverage until the storm has passed and your carrier is able to bind coverage again.
If you’re trying to purchase a new vehicle, you cannot purchase physical damage coverage, also known as comprehensive and collision coverage, when your insurance carrier is unable to bind coverage.
A busy start to hurricane season doesn’t necessarily mean a rough one, but forecasters predict that oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic will be favorable for a more active than usual hurricane season. And even a weak tropical storm hitting the U.S. can have a major impact.
“Hopefully, you are reading this when no storms have been forecasted. That gives you a chance to contact your insurance carrier ASAP and make sure you have proper coverages in place,” said Price.
Also, don’t be fooled that hurricanes only happen in the summer. Hurricane Matthew was a Category 5 storm when it hit Florida in late September 2016, and Superstorm Sandy – only a Category 1 storm – devastated New York and New Jersey in late October 2012.
“Hurricanes are active for about half the year, and that’s too long to leave the possibility of storm damage and destruction of your home and property to chance,” said Price.