Nobody wants to have their life turned upside down by a disaster, but each year some states get hit harder than the rest. Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms proved to be the costliest disasters of 2013, but by acknowledging the states with the costliest catastrophes, you can learn how to better protect your property and make sure you have ample home insurance to handle any disasters in 2014.
Wind and hail damage from thunderstorms that swept across the state in April contributed heavily to the $773 million in insurance claims paid out to Nebraska policyholders in 2013.
One reason hail events today may be more expensive than in the past is because houses are often built closer together so "if a hail event affects an area, instead of having five or 10 houses affected, you're now going (to see damage to) hundreds of houses," says Tim Reinhold, senior vice president of research for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).
A series of storms that swept across Minnesota on Aug. 6, 2013, left widespread hail damage and contributed to the state having the fourth highest total in insurance claims in 2013. Minnesota policyholders were paid out $845 million last year, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reports.
Hail damage can be expensive to repair, but you can avoid damage by doing simple things -- such as closing the blinds or drapes to prevent hail-shattered glass from wreaking further havoc inside of your home.
Severe storms and tornadoes rolled through Colorado several times in 2013, including in April and August. About $907 million was paid out to Colorado insurance policyholders in claims, according to the III.
The best time to make sure your home is sturdy enough to sustain high winds is when it's being built, Reinhold says. For example, during construction, builders can make sure a house can better stand up to damaging winds by using stronger materials. If you live in areas prone to tornadoes or hurricanes, the building codes may require you to use high-wind-resistant materials. Even if you don’t have to do it by law, consider using wind-resistant materials anyway if you're getting a new roof or replacing the siding on your home, Reinhold suggests.
Texas suffered its share of severe weather in 2013, as May heralded a damaging tornado outbreak in the northern part of the state. Texas insurance claims totaled $1.51 billion in 2013. Damage from severe storms is not unusual for the Lone Star State. Texas had the highest amount of insurance payouts in the U.S. caused by tornado, thunderstorm and hail catastrophes between 2000 and 2013, according to the III.
When it comes to tornadoes, your first concern should be your life. If you live in a state that experiences frequent tornadoes, consider building a shelter, Reinhold says. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an 8 foot by 8 foot safe room can cost between $7,000 and $8,200, though there are federal and state grants and funding initiatives that can help.
The tornado outbreak in May 2013 that ravaged communities such as Moore, Okla., was one of the biggest contributing factors to that state having the highest amount of insurance payouts last year. Oklahoma policyholders received $1.99 billion in claims, according to the III.
Thanks to a 24-hour news cycle and smartphones that let people snap pictures of tornadoes in action, it may seem like there are more tornadoes today than ever before. But the jury is still out on whether that's actually true since historic weather data is not as complete as what can be tracked today, says Paul Walsh, vice president of weather analytics and a meteorologist for The Weather Company. What is known is that disasters are occurring in more populated areas so more insured properties are being affected, Walsh adds.
There's one big reason why tornadoes are so damaging: "You don't get the kind of warning that you get with a hurricane," Reinhold says.
While you may have a couple of days to put up hurricane shutters before a tropical storm, you may only have minutes to prepare for a tornado.
How to protect your home against hurricane damage
While hurricanes weren't a major factor in insurance losses in 2013, that's not normally the case.
Between 1992 and 2011, hurricanes and tropical storms were responsible for the most catastrophic losses -- 42 percent -- followed by tornado losses accounting for 33.9 percent and winter storms accounting for 7.4 percent.
In 2012, hurricanes accounted for most of the damage. The destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy led New York and New Jersey to have the highest insurance payouts in the U.S. that year.
To prepare for this year's hurricane season, the most important thing to do is plan ahead.
- Make sure your roof isn’t missing any shingles, Reinhold says.
- Have permanent anchors installed on your home for shutters so they can be put up quickly if a hurricane is forecast.
Keep supplies such as plywood on hand so you don’t run the risk of being unable to find them in the last-minute rush.