Insured for Storm Season? Check Your Policy

Hurricane season is here again. And for the next four months we won’t start the day without checking the forecast. Fortunately, those forecasts usually give us some warning. We can prepare, get out of the storm’s likely path, stock up on water, canned chili, and beer—all depending on our tolerance for risk.

And so far, the hurricane experts are predicting a slower than normal storm season, thanks to the positioning of El Niño—which is busy stirring up the Pacific. But the experts know—better than the rest of us—that even a marginal Category 1 storm can ruin lots of lives, homes, and communities. No one who has lived through even “minor” hurricanes wants to try another.

If you’re planning a summer trip anywhere to the east and southeast US, the Gulf of Mexico coast, the Atlantic shore, or especially the Caribbean, take notice now.

If you’re planning a couple of weeks at a resort or hotel, pay as small a deposit as you can negotiate. Those same resorts and hotels that attracted your attention are not quite as chummy when it comes to returning your money.

I assume you’re intending to buy travel insurance: make sure it has benefits for trip interruption or cancellation, and above all, read the policy. Trip cancellation plans will not cover all of your losses.

Related: Trip Interrupted: Recovering Expenses When Nature Acts Badly

They may cover a good portion, but they all have limits and caps, and they will only apply to non-refundable fees—that is, to money you have already put out. They certainly won’t pay for all of your costs and they won’t replace the enjoyment and memories of a vacation lost.

Also, be careful about being too careful.

If, for example, you’re planning a golf trip to Myrtle Beach, or the Bahamas, or South Padre Island in Texas, and your weather forecaster predicts you may be in the eye of the storm, don’t rush to cancel. If the storm changes its route and tracks further north, or south, or even dissipates (as so many do), and you have cancelled and the resort has been left untouched, don’t expect to get your money back—not even from your insurer.

Know your policy.

If you’re a snowbird and you have property in hurricane-prone areas, do not anticipate that somebody else will take care of your property—put up your storm windows, move your lawn furniture, turn off your water. If your neighbours see a storm coming, they will be busy taking care of themselves. And once the wind kicks up to 25 or 30 miles per hour, it’s too late to be carrying sheets of plywood.

Related: Hurricane Season Is Here: Snowbirds, Pay Attention

But if all you need is somebody to monitor your property and walk around to assess damage, take care of that now. Ask your neighbour to give you a report, or take a few pictures with their smartphone.

Definitely do not plan on flying down to Florida or Texas at the last minute. Those planes will not be flying, and you will find yourself stranded in Atlanta, waiting for the sun to come out.

And since this is only June, you still have time to call your insurance company, check out your coverage, and make a few alterations. And check out that bit about flood insurance, which you probably don’t have because you thought flood coverage was a part of every policy. Well, it’s not. And nothing can be more distressing than having even as little as six inches of water splashing around your living room.

I’ve been through more storms than I want to think about, as have my neighbours. And we know that the way to beat a hurricane is to be ready for it and respect its power. Take nothing for granted.

We’ll be giving you more tips as the height of storm season matures, from August through September. Stay with us.

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