Protecting Your Home Against Hurricane Damages

Hurricanes can cause irrevocable damage to any property, but with proper planning, you can minimize the impact on your home and finances.

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Last Updated: 8/10/2022
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Hurricanes can cause millions of dollars of damage, affecting lives, properties and livelihoods. Case in point, Hurricane Katrina caused an estimated $89.68 billion in insured losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute. To date, it is the most costly hurricane on record. While homeowners can protect their homes by boarding windows and mitigating flood damage, it’s also important to consider potential financial repercussions by purchasing home insurance and building an emergency fund.

Explore how to protect your home and keep your funds intact after a devastating hurricane.

Staying Alert as Hurricane Season Approaches

Hurricane season typically runs between June 1 and November 30 every year — but preparations should always be done before the season. These include purchasing emergency supplies, prepping your home, buying home insurance and creating a contingency plan. Running through the necessary safety precautions is critical to minimize the impact on your family, home and business.

Assess and Determine the Risks

Not all states have an equal risk of disasters. For instance, Florida or Louisiana have a higher risk of experiencing a hurricane compared to Michigan or Iowa. Generally, states with the highest hurricane risk are located along the coastline and are closer to the equator. Still, to make analysis easier, homeowners can use hurricane index maps to determine their home’s level of risk.

What Should You Do Before a Hurricane?

Preparing for a hurricane can minimize the potential damage it may inflict on your family and home. For instance, having a plan for hurricane season can go a long way in preventing a scramble to evacuate or losing too many items. Aside from being physically prepared, it’s vital to ensure your finances are ready for an emergency. This way, you won’t struggle in the aftermath.

Understand Important Terms

When listening to hurricane alerts, you may hear several terms used frequently. Familiarizing yourself with hurricane-related terms can help you better evaluate your level of risk and the signs you need to evacuate.

  • Term
    Definition
  • Eye
    The eye is another term for the center of a cyclone or hurricane. The more air sinks into the eye, the more clouds and rains dissipate.
  • Landfall
    Landfall is the term used to describe when a hurricane’s eye has crossed the shoreline. It does not mean when the cyclone hits land for the first time.
  • Spiral Bands
    Spiral bands combine clouds and thunderstorms that spiral inwards toward the center or eye of a hurricane.
  • Storm Surge
    A storm surge is where the sea level rises with a hurricane or severe storm, pushing water inland across coastal areas thanks to the broad wind circulating a storm’s center.
  • Storm Tide
    A storm tide is the observed seawater level during a hurricane, resulting from a storm surge and a high tide.
  • Tropical Depression
    A tropical depression is a cyclone with less than 39 mph winds.
  • Tropical Storm
    A tropical storm is one of the most destructive types of storms, where a system of thunderstorms occurs accompanied by sustained winds that can reach a maximum of 39 to 73 miles per hour.

Get Familiar With Hurricane Websites and Alert Services

Hurricane websites and alert services are essential during hurricane season. For families and individuals alike, it can serve as a guide to assess the area’s risk and, if determined, when evacuation will occur.

Use the following hurricane websites and alerts to keep yourself updated on the whereabouts and risks of a storm.

  • National Hurricane Center (NHC): This is the official site for the U.S. government’s hurricane alerts, covering the North Atlantic and the Eastern North Pacific. You can use satellite imagery, aerial recon and several other forecasting tools.
  • NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR): Next to the NHC, the National Weather Service Radio operates a nationwide network of radio stations, providing continuous weather information directly from the National Weather Service office.
  • Weather.org: Weather.org offers several worldwide weather forecasts complete with satellite imagery, world radars, wind forecasts and more.

Know Your Hurricane Evacuation Zone

A hurricane evacuation zone is an area designated by letter and level of risk. While designations can vary from state to state, the most vulnerable zones are typically Zone A, B and C. Knowing your zone, which is often designated by the state and can be found on their official website, can help you determine when you are likely to be evacuated.

Be Ready for Power Outages

Hurricanes are often accompanied by power outages, which can lead to dire situations if you aren’t prepared. Put together an emergency preparedness kit with flashlights and extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, first aid kits, a fire extinguisher, a lighter, pet necessities, blankets, food supplies, cash and gas. This way, if a power outage hits, you will have everything you need to stay updated on the situation and survive.

A family of three preparing for a hurricane.

5 Smart Ways to Hurricane Proof Your House

If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, taking proactive measures to protect your property all-year-round can ensure your most expensive asset is secure. Fortunately, there are several ways you can hurricane-proof your home without ruining your property's aesthetic.

1

Upgrade to high-impact windows

Windows are the most vulnerable parts of a home, which is why it may pay to get hurricane-impact windows secured with heavy frames. This can reduce the likelihood of water intrusion even if strong winds or projectiles are flying around. To add even more protection, you may want to consider adding film to your windows to prevent breakage.

2

Strengthen your roof

The absence of a high-impact roof can lead to the most important part of the house flying off and damaging other properties. To prevent hurricane damage, opt for a metal roof with architectural shingles. Such shingles are often thicker and are designed to withstand strong winds.

3

Reinforce your doors

Doors, including garage doors, are often the largest entry to your home. Invest in heavy-duty garage doors with steel reinforcements to provide durability against severe wind pressures. Fiberglass is also a good option for front doors, as it is more likely to prevent water intrusion than wood or steel doors.

4

Keep gutters clean

Routinely keep your gutters clean — in or out of hurricane season. This way, water can flow properly and be rerouted away from your home, rather than inside the home itself.

5

Work on your landscaping

Landscaping affects how flooding and damages from hurricanes get to your property. For instance, remove dry, weak limbs from trees close to your home and install hurricane-resistant fencing.

A homeowner discussing ways to best hurricane proof their home.

Reviewing and Understanding Your Insurance Policy

Having home insurance is one way to protect your home against hurricanes. While it does not necessarily prevent damages to your home, it can pay for certain repairs should something happen.

However, not all damages may be covered by your standard homeowners insurance policy, so it’s essential to review your policy and add the necessary coverages to ensure you’re protected.

Does Your Homeowner Insurance Cover Hurricane Damages?

Hurricane damage is often caused by floods or strong winds — neither of which are covered by a standard home insurance policy. Unfortunately, no single policy can cover both events, so homeowners need to get two separate policies to stay protected against hurricanes.

In particular, flood damage can be covered by a separate flood insurance policy, which can only be purchased from the National Flood Insurance Program. On the other hand, windstorm insurance can pay for damages caused by wind gusts that exceed 35 miles per hour.

What Hurricane Insurance Covers and Doesn’t Cover

Understanding what flood and windstorm insurances cover can help you determine if they are the right coverages for you. For instance, if you live in an area prone to hurricanes but do not live by the coastline, you may get away with just needing a standard home insurance policy, as it can cover winds caused by hurricanes — but only to a certain degree.

Explore what flood and windstorm insurances do and do not cover using the tables below.

Flood Insurance

checkSign
What It Covers
  • The building’s systems and fixtures, such as electrical and plumbing systems, furnaces, permanently-installed carpeting or cabinets, fuel tanks, etc.
  • The building’s physical structure and foundation.
  • The building’s contents, such as personal belongings, appliances and valuable items.
denySign
What It Doesn’t Cover
  • The detached structures of a property, such as wells, swimming pools, seawalls or fences.
  • Damages not directly caused by flooding, such as sewer backups.
  • Temporary housing caused by flooding.
Windstorm Insurance

checkSign
What It Covers
  • Physical damage to the property caused by hurricanes, cyclones and tornadoes.
  • Personal belongings lost due to hurricanes, cyclones or tornadoes.
  • Damages to detached structures, such as garages or sheds.
denySign
What It Doesn’t Cover
  • Damage caused by floods or storm surges.
  • Damage caused by fires that were brought by high wind.
  • Damage caused by water backups.

Is Hurricane Insurance Worth It?

Getting flood and windstorm coverage against hurricanes is beneficial if you live in a high-risk area, such as a coastal city. However, homeowners in some areas can forego windstorm coverage if hurricane winds are not always strong.

Conversely, getting flood and windstorm coverage may not be worth it for homeowners who live in dry places. If there is less likelihood of hurricanes in your area, you may not need hurricane coverage.

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WHEN TO BUY HURRICANE INSURANCE

Purchasing coverage against hurricanes may not benefit all homeowners. Review when you should get hurricane insurance.

  • If you live in a hurricane-prone area: States like Florida, Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina are most at risk of hurricanes.
  • Before hurricane season: Purchasing insurance before hurricane season can help you avoid the rush of other homeowners scrambling to get enough coverage.
  • If you have an older home: Modern homes are built with modern materials to withstand the natural elements, but older homes are not. If your home is older and you don’t have the funds to upgrade it, you may benefit from hurricane insurance.

Can You Buy Last-Minute Hurricane Insurance?

Insurance providers take time to evaluate your home before letting you get insurance. If you’re trying to purchase coverage on the brink of hurricane season, you aren’t going to get it at the last minute. Typically, the waiting period for insurers can be anywhere from 10 to 30 days. This means that it’s best to get coverage against hurricanes at least two months before the season to ensure you’re covered on time.

A family keeping safe during a storm.

How to Stay Safe During a Storm

The most important thing you should do during a hurricane is keep yourself and your loved ones safe. This can mean preparing for the worst and evacuating or boarding up your home to prevent water damage.

Review the tips below to keep yourself, your loved ones and your pets safe during a storm.

1

Stay updated

Stay informed about the storm, including where it is heading and what you can do by listening to the radio or watching TV. This will tell you if you need to evacuate — and if you do, make sure to leave as soon as possible.

2

Create an emergency plan

An emergency plan should involve knowing where to go, what to bring and who does what.

3

Put together an emergency kit

Put together a kit of essentials, which should include items like a first aid kit, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, food supplies, blankets and other essentials in an emergency.

4

Protect your home

Keep your windows closed and put outdoor furniture inside.

5

Avoid going outside

Avoid leaving your home until there is an announcement that the storm has passed. Being outside can put you at risk of being hit by flying objects or getting swept away by floods.

What You Should Do After a Hurricane

Even if you receive an announcement that the storm is over, keep yourself safe after a hurricane by remaining alert and following the tips below.

1

Do not go into floodwater

Floodwater is bound to contain debris that could harm your health. This can include human and livestock waste, dangerous chemicals or even electrical wiring. Avoid it altogether and stay on firm ground if you have to go out.

2

Be careful around damaged buildings

If a building or property is damaged, avoid it. The building itself, or material connected to it, could fall.

3

Be wary of gas lines

Hurricane damage may affect gas lines, which can seriously threaten your health. If you suspect that your property may have broken gas lines, avoid using candles and leave the property until a utility company deems it safe.

4

Take inventory of damaged property

If any contents are damaged, make a list of the contents, including the item's description, manufacturer, brand name and the date of purchase. If you have any photos, videotapes or personal property inventories, you should include them. This way, you can easily make a claim later.

5

Avoid going out

It’s best not to leave the house after a hurricane, as there is still a risk of debris falling from buildings or trees. Damaged electrical lines can also threaten your health, so it’s best to stay at home as much as possible and wait for news from authorities on when it’s safe to go out.

Expert Insight on Hurricane Protection

Experiencing a hurricane can be stressful for any homeowner. Aside from keeping yourself and your loved ones safe, you’ll also want to ensure your home is protected. To help you determine what’s best for your circumstances, MoneyGeek reached out to several experts for their advice.

  1. How can homeowners keep their homes protected from a hurricane?
  2. How can homeowners tell if flood and/or windstorm insurance is right for their needs?
Josh Riutta
Josh Riutta

Owner of Mikku and Sons Roofing

Shaun Martin
Shaun Martin

Owner & CEO of Denver Home Buyer

Alan Himmel
Alan Himmel

Licensed/Bonded Public Insurance Adjuster and Founder of Florida Allstar Public Adjusting, Inc.

Resources for Hurricane Protection, Relief & Assistance

There are resources available to understand the risks of hurricanes as a homeowner. Review them below.

  • Ready.gov: Ready.gov offers a variety of resources on how to prepare for hurricanes, what to do, where to go and more.
  • Ready.gov's Hurricane Season Preparedness Digital Toolkit: Prepare for hurricane season using Ready.gov’s digital tool kit.
  • U.S. Geological Survey: Get data on flooding and storms by year and storm name using USGS’ resources.
  • Red Cross's Hurricane Safety Information: The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that can assist individuals in getting back on their feet after a hurricane. They also offer hurricane relief programs.
  • Americares: Americares is a national nonprofit organization that provides supplies to disaster survivors, whether they’ve been affected by a hurricane, earthquake or another natural calamity.
  • Catholic Charities: Catholic Charities is a faith-based organization that aims to assist those in need, including those experiencing the aftermath of a calamity.

Methodology

MoneyGeek analyzed data from FEMA’s National Risk Index datasets to calculate the annual expected losses for all 50 states focusing on building damage and population exposure data, which considers the FEMA-determined statistical value of life to be $7.6 million. To calculate per capita risk, MoneyGeek collected the U.S. population as of 2016.

FEMA's National Risk Index data also includes estimates for agricultural losses caused by hurricanes, which MoneyGeek excluded from its analysis.

About the Author


expert-profile

Nathan Paulus is the director of content marketing at MoneyGeek. Nathan has been creating content for nearly 10 years and is particularly engaged in personal finance, investing, and property management. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas Houston.


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