Your Guide to Handling Hurricanes & Severe Storms

Hurricane Prep & Handling Damages

If you live or operate a business in a region prone to hurricanes or tropical storms, taking the time to prepare before a weather event can mean the difference between a short repair process and paying thousands of dollars in damages out-of-pocket.

Getting Prepared

Making Your Property Storm-Resistant

A home or storefront with storm-resistant features is not only more likely to weather a hurricane with minimal damages, but you may also get additional benefits, such as lower windstorm and flood insurance rates.

If you're in the process of purchasing a property, or have recently done so, make sure to ask the previous owner whether the home has received any windstorm certifications, as well as when any home repairs or additions occurred (such as a new roof). Certifications to receive an insurance discount often need to occur during the construction process, plus you'll want to be aware of any gaps in your property's storm-resistant features.

Even if your property wasn't certified, you can still get an inspector to review your home's storm damage mitigation features and make recommendations. Getting an inspection can be free in some states, such as Florida and Texas. You can also ask your insurer for recommendations, which it will be happy to offer since it reduces the company’s own risk.

Common Storm Mitigation Features

  • Hurricane shutters
  • Impact-rated glass on doors and windows
  • Reinforced roof-to-wall connections
  • Roof-deck attachment
  • Roof covering, shape and bracing
  • Storm-resistant doors and garage doors
  • Secondary water resistance
  • Yard pitch is away from the home

Insuring Your Property Against a Hurricane

Depending on where you live, and your insurer, you may need a combination of homeowners, flood and windstorm insurance policies to protect your home against the different forms of damage a hurricane may cause. This is because most homeowners policies specifically exclude flood damage, and insurers may exclude damage from wind and hail in storm-prone regions.

If you have a mortgage and live in a moderate- to high-risk flood zone, you will likely be required to purchase flood insurance, either through the NFIP or a private insurer. It's also typically a good idea since, if you have a gap in coverage, your claim following a hurricane may not be covered.

Cars, boats, motorcycles and other vehicles would need their own insurance policies, and hurricane damage would only be covered if you have comprehensive coverage.

Helpful Guides

States with the Cheapest NFIP Flood Insurance Rates

U.S. Average

Learn More

Gathering Supplies

Take the time to put together an emergency kit of necessary supplies in case a storm does come to your region.

There are many premade emergency supply kits, or you can assemble one yourself. Either way, just make sure to freshen your emergency kit occasionally, making sure you have the appropriate number of supplies and none are expired.

If a storm is coming your way, you should also identify and gather any items you consider critical or particularly high-value, such as prescription medications, your passport and infant formula.

Basic Supplies to Gather

  • Nonperishable food
  • Water
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Any tools needed to turn off utilities
  • Garbage bags and moist towelettes
  • Duct tape and plastic sheeting
  • Local map

After the Storm

Filing Claims After a Storm

After a hurricane, you'll need to assess any damage to your property and file claims with your insurers. For property claims, start by contacting your insurance company to notify it of damage and initiate the claims process. When you do, ask about what you're allowed to do in terms of cleaning up your property. The insurer may need to send an adjuster to document the damage and, if you've already thrown away, moved, or cleaned up items, the adjuster may be unable to assess it appropriately.

It may take several days before an adjuster is able to review your claim, particularly after a hurricane, since they typically impact a large number of property owners at once, but you may have an extended claims process or receive a smaller payout if you clean up too much beforehand. In either case, you should thoroughly document the damage with photos and video.

You may also need to file an additional living expenses (ALE) claim if you had to relocate temporarily due to severe damage to your home. To be compensated for additional living expenses, you should keep all receipts and documentation related to your expenses, such as tracking your vehicle's mileage.

Additional Living Expenses Can Include

  • Hotel costs
  • Gas expenses from traveling between your house and temporary home, or additional distance to work
  • Moving costs
  • Food costs, if your temporary home doesn't have a kitchen
  • Cost to wash clothing, if you don't have access to your washer and dryer
  • Lost rental income

Storm and Flood Damage can be Significant

Storm losses can be significant, from destroying your personal belongings to causing your walls and floors to need to be replaced. Documenting the damage well will help ensure you receive payment, but you may also want to compile a home inventory ahead of time of the items you own and their value, so there are fewer questions in the claims process. You should also understand whether your property is covered for replacement value or actual cash value, as this will impact your payout.

Highest-Cost Major Flood Events Since 2010

RankFlood Event (as named by FEMA)YearTotal Amount PaidAverage Paid Loss
1Superstorm Sandy2012$8.7 billion$65,997
2Hurricane Harvey2017$8.4 billion$112,964
3Louisiana Severe Storms and Flooding2016$2.5 billion$90,725
4Hurricane Irene2011$1.3 billion$30,366
5Hurricane Irma2017$1.0 billion$45,421

Flood insurance is just one of the policies that may cover your property in the event of a hurricane or major storm. As you can see, significant hurricanes can result in claims of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per household, a key reason it's important to not have gaps in coverage. Keeping your policies updated and purchasing them well ahead of a storm, since they can take a month to go into effect, can be critical to recovering financially after the storm.

Using SBA Loans to Rebuild Your Home or Business

Your insurance may not cover the full expenses required to repair your home or business, and should this happen, consider applying for a disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Association, which is the primary federal channel of financial assistance following natural disasters. SBA disaster loans aren't restricted to just small businesses, and the SBA offers different types of disaster loans for different scenarios and needs.

The SBA makes every effort to make itself as accessible as possible. The SBA will usually have physical centers in declared disaster areas where you can receive in person help. You can find more info by phone (1-800-659-2955), email ([email protected]) or web.

Once you know a loan is the right fit for you, we recommend applying for a loan as soon as possible, since it can take up to four weeks to get back a decision. Read more about SBA Disaster Loans here.

How the SBA Helped After Hurricane Sandy

  • Total SBA Loans Approved: 38,092
  • Total SBA Dollars Approved: $2.5 billion
  • Avg. Size of SBA Home and Personal Property Loan: $60K
  • Avg. Size of SBA Business Physical Disaster Loan: $128K
  • Avg. Size of SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan: $64K
  • Avg. Approval Rate of SBA Loan: 43%

Handling Repairs

After the storm, take the time to assess the damage done and take pictures. You'll need to judge whether you want to conduct the repairs yourself.

If handling repairs yourself, one of the first things you do is check the structural integrity of your home and your utilities and systems. Remember to consult a professional before using any damaged appliances, and throw out all food and water exposed to mud or flood waters. Prioritize removing large amounts of debris, dirt or water. You'll want as much of your home to be as dry as it can be before actually cleaning.

If the damage is extensive, you'll want to hire a contractor. We recommend hiring one especially if you have significant water damage, as that can lead to structural wear down and serious mold issues. We also recommend checking out this site for government-approved contractors. Be sure a written contract and agreement is put in place. You'll want to be sure the contract covers any and all agreements, a comprehensive list of materials required, warranties for both the materials and labor, their contact info, and a clear start and end date. We also recommend requesting to see the contractor's insurance information and setting a payment schedule so that you don't bear the full cost upfront. Most importantly, don't hire a contractor until you have your insurance settlement, as the finalized amount will determine your budget.

Essential Cleaning Supplies

  • Heavy duty trash bags
  • Sponges
  • Detergent
  • Shop-Vac or canister vacuum
  • Buckets