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Disasters can happen anywhere and at any time. But some places experience more than their fair share of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and severe weather--so much so that certain locales earn frightening nicknames, such as Tornado Alley. No matter where you live, make sure you have the right kinds and necessary amounts of insurance coverage to protect your finances.
So where do these damaging events occur most frequently and severely? Kiplinger.com worked with the National Weather Service to identify the ten states that have suffered the biggest estimated property losses from disasters over the past eight years. Take a look.
By the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance
, October 2015
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $26.4 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: powerful wind, winter storms, floods
Most Costly Disasters: floods, powerful wind
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2015): 85
New Jersey earns the top spot on this list, in large part due to damage wrought by Sandy--which had weakened from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone by the time it the Jersey Shore--in October 2012. The state was among the hardest hit by Sandy, which was the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, after Hurricane Katrina. Many homes and businesses were destroyed along the Jersey Shore, and a portion of the Atlantic City Boardwalk washed away. Shortly after Sandy hit, another storm brought wet snow that caused more power outages and damage.
Homeowners who live along the coast or in areas where there are frequent storms should take steps before hurricane season begins to protect their homes and finances from damage. Here’s how to protect yourself from spring and summer storms.
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $24.5 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: hail, drought, powerful wind, floods
Most Costly Disasters: storm surge/tide, hurricanes
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2015): 304
Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are nearly as common as tumbleweed on Lone Star plains. Even when funnel clouds don’t touch down, hail pummels crops and cars alike. Also, cities on or near the southern coast, such as Galveston and Houston, are often in the bulls-eye of destructive hurricanes (such as Hurricane Ike in 2008) that gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico. And wildfires--such as the 2011 Bastrop fire that destroyed more than 1,500 homes--have been common due to extreme heat and drought conditions in the state over the past few years. Heavy rains this spring and summer should bring relief from fire as well as the underlying drought.
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $5.2 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: powerful wind, hail, winter storms, floods
Most Costly Disasters: floods, tornadoes
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2015): 210
Severe storms and tornadoes are common in Tennessee, which was among several southern states hit by the historic “super outbreak” of tornadoes in April 2011; more damage and deaths were reported in April of 2014, as well. The state’s capital, Nashville, suffered an estimated $2 billion in damage due to flooding in May 2010, and Memphis had millions of dollars’ worth of damage when the Mississippi River flooded in the spring of 2011. Plus, Tennessee was one of the southern states bitten hard by winter storms in 2014--you may remember the one that brought nearby Atlanta to a halt.
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $5.0 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: hail, powerful wind, floods
Most Costly Disasters: tornadoes, winter storms
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2015): 331
The tornado that swept through Joplin on May 22, 2011, was one of the deadliest in U.S. history (158 deaths) and generated $2.2 billion in insurance claims, according to an Insurance Information Institute analysis of data from ISO’s Property Claims Service.
If a tornado strikes where your live, follow these seven steps to speed up the insurance claims process.
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $4.9 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: powerful winds, hail, drought, floods
Most Costly Disasters: tornadoes, powerful wind
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2015): 343
Alabama has suffered the most weather-related deaths in the last eight years of any American state. Alabama was hit hard by tornadoes in April 2011, especially in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, where more than 120 people were killed. In fact, the Yellowhammer State is second only to Oklahoma for the number of EF5 tornadoes (the largest in intensity and area) that have struck there.
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $4.5 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: hail, thunderstorms, drought, floods
Most Costly Disasters: tornadoes, ice storms
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 143
The Sooner State has another moniker: Tornado Alley. A massive EF5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla. (pictured left), on May 20, 2013, and the widest tornado on record hit El Reno, Okla., just 11 days later. Severe storms and twisters are so much a part of the state's weather that the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center are located here.
Homeowners in tornado-prone states should set aside an emergency fund and take photos of all valuables in preparation for an insurance claim (in addition, of course, to safety measures like a shelter).
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $4.4 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, floods
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2015): 113
Mississippi frequently is hit by tornadoes and severe storms – twisters killed 16 in 2014 alone . It also has been in the path of several hurricanes--most recently Hurricane Isaac in 2012--that have caused extensive flooding. And don’t forget the river of the same name that runs through the state. Although homeowners insurance covers damage due to wind, it doesn’t cover flood damage. You have to purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. For more information, see Protect Your Home With Flood Insurance.
Infrogmation of New Orleans/Flickr
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $3.7 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: powerful wind, hail, floods, tornadoes
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2015): 72
Note that our recording period begins after the costliest disaster in U.S. history: Hurricane Katrina, which devastated low-lying Louisiana in 2005. Louisiana again suffered flooding when Hurricane Isaac hit in 2012, though losses of life and property were thankfully only a shadow of Katrina. If you live in a flood-prone area, don’t wait until storm clouds gather to buy a flood policy; typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period before premiums take effect.
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $3.6 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: winter storms, hail, drought
Most Costly Disasters: hail, wildfires
Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2015): 78
Record rainfall during September 2013 led to floods that killed nine people and caused widespread destruction in several Colorado cities, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The Centennial State also suffered the most damages among western states where wildfires broke out in the summer of 2012. If you live in a state where wildfires are common, it’s important to know what your homeowners policy covers and the difference between assessed value and actual replacement value. Too many people learn only after a fire that they were underinsured.
But the most common weather-related cause of death in Colorado is neither fire nor water (at least, not in liquid form): It’s avalanches, which killed 41 during our measuring period.
Estimated Property Damage (2006-2015): $3.3 billion
Most Frequent Disasters: powerful wind, floods, heavy rain
Most Costly Disasters: hail, frost/freeze
Drought conditions have plagued Arizona for the past several years. As a result, the state has seen outbreaks of wildfires, including its largest on record in 2011. The Wallow Fire burned more than 500,000 acres in eastern Arizona. And in 2010 a series of severe thunderstorms produced numerous tornadoes and hail around Phoenix, causing an estimated $2 billion in damage. Finally, Arizona was hammered by sub-zero temperatures in the winter of 2013 that froze water supply pipes in the Navajo Nation.
Keep in mind that if your home is damaged, you should file a claim only if it’s several hundred dollars more than your insurance deductible. Frequent small claims can lead to a rate hike.
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