Texas Led States in Natural Disasters Last Year

A just-published study by InsuranceQuotes said the Lone Star State had 951 incidents of high winds, 783 incidents of hail and 228 reports of tornadoes last year.

by Mella McEwen, Midland Reporter-Telegram, Texas / August 29, 2016
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(TNS) - Buffeted by hurricanes and tornadoes, inundated by floodwaters, Texas topped the list of states most affected by natural disasters in 2015.

A just-published study by InsuranceQuotes said the Lone Star State had 951 incidents of high winds, 783 incidents of hail and 228 reports of tornadoes last year. That put it first among the top five states experiencing natural disasters last year.

“Texas is getting a lot of weather: It’s big, there’s a lot of land and its size makes it a bigger target,” said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for InsuranceQuotes in a phone interview.

She agreed that, with areas from Big Spring to Houston suffering natural disasters, and even Odessa experiencing some street flooding last week, Texas is again being buffeted by Mother Nature.                                              

While the study did not break down claims into categories such residences and autos, “these types of disasters affect everything, all types of properties — automobiles, residences, rental property like condos, it all gets affected by these disasters,” Adams said.

Unfortunately, many people are not proactive when it comes to preparing for natural disasters, she said.

 “Of course, in some cases there’s not a lot you can do. If you’re in the eye of a massive tornado, you’re going to sustain damage,” Adams said.

Many people tend to wait until something happens to be proactive, she said.

“In reality, that’s the worst time to be proactive, and the worst time to think about insurance.”

Without enough insurance or the right insurance, the financial ramifications of a natural disaster can be financially devastating for the victims, she said.

Insurance premiums mean consumers have less to put aside for retirement or in savings, Adams said. But “the alternative is devastating.”

Flooding is one example. Citing the recent historic flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Adams surmised that many of the victims don’t have flood insurance. “Floods are not covered” under homeowner insurance policies unless it’s from storm waters, she said. Consumers have to purchase special flood policies.

“People don’t understand the difference between storm waters and flood waters. There’s a big education gap in understanding basic coverage,” Adams said.

In the event of flooding, unless the area is declared a federal disaster area, there’s not much relief, she said. And even if an area is declared a disaster area, most government assistance is in the form of loans, she said.

Adams has a few recommendations for homeowners:

-- Prepare property for the possibility of a natural disaster, beginning with the roof, which she said is the first line of defense against wind and hail.

-- Strengthen doors and windows.

-- Inform insurance agents of such upgrades because that may result in a discounted premium, she said.

-- Review insurance policies.

“If you don’t understand it, go to your agent or insurance company. Insurance policies aren’t easy to read — they’re written by lawyers for lawyers. But don’t let that stop you from getting clarity. If you don’t understand your policy, that means you’re opening yourself up to financial disaster.”

Another consequence of natural disasters, especially in the five hardest hit states,  including Texas, is that insurance rates will rise.

“They’re already high in those top states and it means they’ll get even higher. It’s difficult to pay more for insurance but you want insurance companies to be solvent and be able to pay claims. It’s a bitter pill to swallow and it affects all consumers,” Adams said.

Insurance is one of those products no one wants to have to use, she said. But for people without it, the results can be devastating.

“It’s a tough bill to pay, but when you think of the alternatives, it’s the better option. It lets you sleep better at night,” she said.

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©2016 the Midland Reporter-Telegram (Midland, Texas)

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