Winter Is Coming: Can Homeowners Withstand Another Polar Vortex This Year?
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It’s that time of year again. The days get shorter, nights get longer, and the air gets chilly. For homeowners, this means it’s time to prep your property for the winter. From strong winds that loosen your shingles to frozen pipes that burst, the cold season can wreak havoc on your property — especially if you live in one of the states with the highest winter weather risk.
To find the states with the most expected winter weather risk this season, MoneyGeek analyzed expected property damage from winter weather overall and per capita using FEMA’s National Risk Index. We also broke down the percentage of expected damage from ice storms, cold waves and winter weather to help property owners identify the best homeowners insurance policy for their needs.
States Expected to Have Highest Costs From Winter Weather Damage (2022–2023)
Using data from FEMA’s National Risk Index, MoneyGeek developed predictions for winter weather-related property damage this year. We then identified which states are expected to have the highest property damage costs per capita this winter.
While North Dakotans will each pay about $23 to cover winter storm damages in winter 2022–2023, the cost for Arkansas and Oklahoma residents will be approximately $14 per person. However, it’s important to note that Oklahoma’s total expected property damage cost is over $53.8 million and Arkansas’ is north of $41.9 million, while North Dakota’s is about $15.5 million. Therefore, the difference in the per capita average also reflects population size.
According to MoneyGeek’s study, Nebraska and South Dakota will be the fourth and fifth most expensive states in terms of per capita winter storm damage. Homeowners here will pay just under $9 per person to cover seasonal repairs.
Below, you can find a description of winter weather conditions for the top five states on this list to offer readers a better understanding of possible winter storm damage and seasonal risks, followed by a list of the 10 states with the most expected winter storm damage this season.
5 Worst States for Winter Weather Damage
Winter weather in North Dakota usually lasts from November through March and can be accompanied by strong winds that create blizzard conditions. Temperatures fall below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 70 days on average, increasing risks to the home, including freezing and bursting water pipes.
According to the official Arkansas website, November marks the start of winter in this state, with light frost conditions and colder weather beginning toward the end of the month. By January, winter conditions become harsher, with average minimum temperatures of 28.8 degrees Fahrenheit and an average snowfall of 2.3 inches. By March, the weather is often milder, but residents often see at least one final snowfall this month.
The Oklahoma Climatological Survey describes the state's winters as shorter and less severe than those of neighboring states. While extreme cold is infrequent, snowfall can range from less than two inches in some parts of the state to nearly 30 inches in others. Temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 to 140 days in different parts of the state.
The National Weather Service indicates that the average winter season extends from November to March in eastern Nebraska and from October to April in western parts of the state. Snow and strong winds create the riskiest conditions, with dangerous wind chills and the possibility of blizzards. Other seasonal risks include power outages, tree damage and downed power lines.
Located toward the north of the country in the Great Plains area, South Dakota is exposed to cold arctic winds and low temperatures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates that blizzards and snowstorms can lead to the death of livestock during the winter months. This affects South Dakota’s agricultural economy while also causing devastating floods once the snow starts to melt.
Top 15 Worst States for Winter Weather Damage
- 15. North Carolina
- $2.48Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $23.6 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 14. Iowa
- $2.49Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $7.6 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 13. Ohio
- $2.50Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $28.8 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 12. Tennessee
- $2.61Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $16.6 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 11. New Hampshire
- $3.25Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $4.4 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 10. Kentucky
- $3.27Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $14.2 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 9. South Carolina
- $3.33Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $15.4 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 8. Kansas
- $5Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $15.2 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 7. Missouri
- $6Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $34.9 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 6. Maine
- $7Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $9.6 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 5. South Dakota
- $8Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $6.6 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 4. Nebraska
- $9Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $16.2 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 3. Oklahoma
- $14.33Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $53.8 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 2. Arkansas
- $14.36Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $41.9 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
- 1. North Dakota
- $23Total Expected Property Damage Costs per Capita
- $15.5 millionTotal Expected Property Damage Costs
How to Prepare Your Home for Winter Weather
Preparing your home for winter weather can keep you safe in case of a storm and save you thousands of dollars, too. Considering how high winter weather insured losses were in 2021 compared to previous years, it’s more important now than ever to buy a quality home insurance policy, as well as take steps to protect your property.
To prepare the inside and outside of your home for winter weather, Consumer Reports recommends:
- Protecting your indoor pipes
- Insulating your attic
- Servicing your heating equipment
- Installing glass storm windows
- Hiring a licensed roofing contractor to inspect and repair your roof
- Cleaning your gutters
- Repairing your outdoor flooring
- Removing tree limbs
- Preparing outdoor water sources
- Marking pathways before heavy snowfall
Damages related to the list above reflect many of the top winter home insurance claims. After the 2021 polar vortex became the most costly weather disaster in the history of Texas, it prompted many homeowners — not just in Texas but across the country — to question how much insurance coverage they might need to prepare for this winter season.
Knowing your local weather prediction for this year can help you identify how much home insurance coverage you need to protect your property; looking for cheap homeowners insurance in your area that meets these coverage needs is crucial to financially securing your home in the event of winter damage.
Before the season begins, take some time to review your homeowners insurance policy for these four types of coverage:
- Personal property
- Living expense
In some cases, you may also want to consider secondary coverage to cover the cost of repairing structures beyond your dwelling (such as fences or a detached garage), as well as medical payments for visitors who may become injured while at your home.
Learning more about winter-weather patterns due to climate change and taking steps to prepare can help homeowners stay safe this winter season and may even save them thousands of dollars.
MoneyGeek spoke to experts in the field to discuss winter storm damage and what it means for homeowners across the country.
- What is the polar vortex, and how is it affecting winter weather?
- What resources would you recommend to individuals who live in states with high winter weather risk?
- Based on your studies, how do you expect climate change to affect winter weather conditions across the country?
- In addition to maintenance and prep, what could homeowners do to prepare for harsher winter conditions?
- As winter weather storms become more intense, how do these events affect communities?
- What are some strategies for states to adapt to changing winter weather conditions?
Extension Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts; Associate Director, Climate System Research Center
Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
We analyzed FEMA’s National Risk Index data to determine expected annualized property damage losses from winter weather events across the country. Our analysis included property losses from snowstorms, sleet, freezing rain, ice storms and cold waves. We analyzed total property damage and ranked states by per capita losses to determine which states are the most burdened by property damage due to winter storms.
If you have any questions about our findings or methodology, please reach out to Melody Kasulis via email at email@example.com.
Full Data Set
The data points presented are defined as follows:
- Total Expected Annual Winter Property Damage Losses: Total property losses from snowstorms, sleet, freezing rain, ice storms and cold waves.
- Total Winter Expected Property Losses per Capita: Total losses divided by the population of each state.
- % of Property Damage From Ice Storms: Percent of total property losses attributed to ice storms. Here, ice storms are defined as instances of freezing rain with significant ice accumulation.
- % of Property Damage From Cold Waves: Percent of total property losses attributed to cold waves. Here, cold waves are defined as instances of rapid drops in temperatures within 24 hours to extremely low temperatures for an extended period of time.
- % of Property Damage From Winter Weather: Percent of total property losses attributed to winter weather. Here, winter weather is defined as snow, sleet or freezing rain.
Total Winter Expected Property Losses per Capita
Total Expected Annual Winter Property Damage Losses
% of Property Damage from Ice Storms
% of Property Damage from Cold Waves
% of Property Damage from Winter Weather
About Lucia Caldera
- Arkansas.com. "Get an Idea of the Arkansas Weather Forecast for Your Next Vacation." Accessed November 2, 2022.
- Consumer Reports. "10 Tips to Get Your House Ready for Winter." Accessed November 4, 2022.
- FEMA. "The National Risk Index." Accessed November 1, 2022.
- National Weather Service. "Nebraska Winter Weather Preparedness." Accessed November 2, 2022.
- National Weather Service. "Valentine’s Week Winter Outbreak 2021: Snow, Ice, & Record Cold." Accessed November 3, 2022.
- North Dakota State University. "North Dakota Topographic, Climatic, and Agricultural Overview." Accessed November 30, 2022.
- Oklahoma Climatological Survey. "Climate of Oklahoma." Accessed November 2, 2022.
- State Climate Summaries. "South Dakota." Accessed November 2, 2022.