What is Covered by Your Winter Storm Insurance?

chicago winter storm insuranceIt seems that meteorologists are not sure what impact El Nino phenomenon may have on Chicago’s winter in 2016. Some are saying that we may see a slightly warmer than usual winter; others are warning that El Nino is not the only force at play and it can mean that cold-air outbreaks and snow storms will likely occur at times this winter.

El Nino is characterized by unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the equator. The shift in temperatures could cause a change in weather patterns thousands of miles away – including in Chicago

In Chicago, spring hail is way more likely to wreak havoc on your roof than winter storm, and yet being prepared is always a good idea (in case we get another winter like the blizzards of 2011 or 2013).

To assess your preparedness, start with reviewing your homeowners insurance. Most standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for winter-related storm damage that occurs as a result of wind, snow, ice, freezing rain, and severe temperatures. However, always review your homeowners policy to find out which wintertime events are specifically covered. Never rely on your memory or even the words of your insurance agent. Always read the actual policy.

The following events are typically not covered by the standard homeowners insurance policy, according to National Association of Insurance Commissioners: Interior water damage from a storm, when there is no damage to the roof or walls of your home; damage as the result of a flood; removal of fallen trees (if the trees do not land on and damage your home); food spoilage due to a power outage; and water damage from backed-up drains or sewers. Some insurers offer endorsements (i.e., additional protection that may be purchased) for certain coverages not covered under the standard homeowner policy. Check with your agent or company to determine your needs

If your home suffers damage while you leave it unattended during the winter, you’ll have some additional issues to consider. For example, certain homeowners policies have exclusions for damages that result from a home not being properly winterized (e.g., not shutting off the water and draining the pipes) or a home being left unoccupied for a long period of time (e.g., more than 30 days).

While your insurance may provide some coverage for winter storm damage, the best option is to take steps to prevent winter-related damage from occurring in the first place. The following are some tips to help protect your home from harsh winter weather.

Keep your home warm. The temperature in the home should be at least 65 degrees to prevent the pipes from freezing.

Watch for snow accumulation on the leeward (downwind) side of a higher-level roof, where blowing snow will collect. For safe removal that won’t damage your roof, consult a roofing contractor for a referral.

Snow or rain that freezes in gutters can cause an "ice dam," damaging ceilings as melting ice spreads under roof shingles. Keep gutters clean of leaves and debris to prevent this condition.

Remove branches that become heavy with snow and icicles hanging from gutters and over walkways.

As snow melts, water can back-up sewers and drains resulting in flooding. Local government officials should be notified if street drains are clogged.

Stock up on fuel in case of a power outage, such as firewood or propane if you have a back up heat source.

Apply weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows and inspect storm doors and windows for broken glass.

Photo credit: Yooperann