Homeowners Insurance

States Most at Risk for Winter Weather Property Damages

States Most at Risk for Winter Weather Property Damages

Winter weather has caused an estimated $64.1 million in property damages in the U.S. in 2022. Here are the states most at risk.
A house and truck after a heavy snowfall.
A house and truck after a heavy snowfall. Source: Getty Images

December has arrived, and winter weather is starting to settle across parts of the U.S. If you’re worried about potential weather-related damages occurring on your property this winter, you’re not alone. In fact, winter weather already caused an estimated $64.1 million in property damages in 2022 through July.

ValuePenguin researchers analyzed winter weather damages and fatalities between 2013 and 2022. If you’re in one of the states that top the list for winter weather-related damages, stick around for vital information about which damages are covered under homeowners insurance.

Key findings

  • Winter weather hazards caused an estimated $64.1 million in property damages in the U.S. in 2022 through July. Since 2013, winter weather has caused $2.2 billion in property damages. More than half of this came in 2013 ($594.7 million) and 2015 ($592.5 million).
  • North Dakota has accounted for 93.5% of the winter weather-related property damage so far in 2022. $60.0 million of the $64.1 million in property damage in the U.S. in 2022 can be attributed to North Dakota. In the 10-year look, New Mexico tops the list at $405.4 million in property damage. New Mexico is followed by Texas ($396.3 million) and Arizona ($151.0 million).
  • If you’re looking for a state safe from winter weather property damages, three could be considered. In the past 10 years, there were no reported property damages related to winter weather in Hawaii, the District of Columbia and Delaware.
  • 64 deaths in 2022 have been attributed to winter weather. There have been 1,440 deaths in the 10 years since 2013. Looking at full years, winter weather fatalities jumped 54.2% between 2013 (153) and 2021 (236). In the 10 years examined, Texas (224), Wisconsin (132) and Illinois (87) have seen the most winter weather fatalities.

What’s considered a winter weather hazard?

Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ValuePenguin researchers calculated the estimated amount of property damages in the 50 states and the District of Columbia due to winter weather events between 2013 and July 2022. To define weather events, we looked at winter weather-related natural hazards that impacted a community. These include:

  • Heavy snow
  • Extreme cold
  • Ice storms
  • Winter weather
  • Blizzards
  • Cold/wind chill
  • Lake-effect snow
  • Winter storms
  • Frost/freeze
  • Sleet
  • Avalanches

When determining the number of deaths caused by a winter weather event, researchers included deaths directly and indirectly caused by winter weather. Using NOAA definitions, the difference between a direct and indirect death is:

  • A direct fatality can be directly attributed to the winter weather event itself, such as being impacted by falling debris. For example, if a falling tree strikes a person during a blizzard, their death could be directly attributed to the blizzard itself.
  • An indirect fatality occurs in the surrounding area or after the event has ended and isn’t directly caused by impact or debris from the event itself. Motor vehicle deaths caused by ice, snow and water on the road are indirect deaths. We can use the same scenario above as an example: If a person crashes their car into the same tree during the storm, their death would be indirectly related to the blizzard.

Winter weather caused an estimated $64.1 million in property damages in 2022 by July

Officially, winter starts on Dec. 21 — but many may still remember the harsh weather conditions that greeted much of the U.S. at the start of the year. In fact, winter weather had caused an estimated $64.1 million in property damages this year through July.

To put that into context, winter weather caused an estimated $2.2 billion in property damages between 2013 and 2022. More than half of these damages occurred in 2013 ($594.7 million) and 2015 ($592.5 million). That can be attributed to above-average snowfalls in 2013 and large-range cold waves in 2015.

Total estimated winter weather damages from 2013 to 2022

Year
Total winter weather damages
2013$594,695,750
2014$94,225,010
2015$592,455,300
2016$31,437,500
2017$308,786,000
2018$82,135,450
2019$79,202,300
2020$5,952,700
2021$342,269,620
2022$64,149,550
Total$2,195,309,180

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data. 2022 data is through July.

Although estimated winter weather damages fell each year between 2017 and 2020 (dipping to just under $6 million at its lowest), they rose to $342.3 million in 2021. To explain the sharp rise in costs, ValuePenguin home insurance expert Divya Sangameshwar says a few factors are at play.

"On one hand, you’ve got a large number of people moving to climate-vulnerable areas — like the coast — and a growing wealth divide," she says. "Many consumers simply can’t afford to protect their properties against disasters. On the other hand, rising inflation means insurance companies are getting hit with increasingly costly claims. And, of course, climate change is making winter weather more extreme."

While most people associate climate change with rising temperatures, it’s also causing more severe winter weather. As average global temperatures rise and the Arctic continues to warm, the jet stream — the high atmospheric winds responsible for shaping the Northern Hemisphere's weather — is slowing down and weakening. That means that in the winter months, the cold Arctic air, which is typically held in place by the once-stronger jet streams, is spilling farther south than usual. As a result, areas where winters are traditionally milder are increasingly experiencing unexpected extremes.

A warmer planet also evaporates more water into the atmosphere. That added moisture means more precipitation in the form of heavy snowfall during the winter months.

It’s not just winter weather events, either, as severe weather damages are costly in general. An earlier ValuePenguin study found that severe weather caused $121.4 billion in property damages in the U.S. between 2017 and 2021. That’s around $24.3 billion a year.

Majority of this year’s winter weather damages have occurred in North Dakota

North Dakota has accounted for 93.5% of the winter weather-related property damage so far in 2022. Of the $64.1 million in property damages from winter weather this year through July, $60.0 million can be attributed to North Dakota.

This comes after a historic blizzard swept across western and central North Dakota between April 12 and 14, 2022. Snowfall in much of the state reached between 1 to 3 feet, but some areas received drifts of more than 8 feet.

10 states with the most damage from winter weather events in 2022

Rank
State
Total damages
1North Dakota$60,000,000
2New York$911,900
3Vermont$680,000
4Idaho$382,000
5Pennsylvania$303,150
6Kansas$300,000
7Kentucky$275,000
8Washington$235,000
9Indiana$200,000
10Tennessee$185,000

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of NOAA data. 2022 data is through July.

While North Dakota tops the list this year, a look at the past decade may offer better insight into which states are most at risk. Since 2013, New Mexico has experienced the most winter weather damage, at $405.4 million in property damages. That’s followed by Texas ($396.3 million) and Arizona ($151.0 million).

Because many may associate these states with warmer weather, those rankings may come as a surprise. However, Sangameshwar says climate change is once again to blame for those winter weather damages.

"The changing jet stream can explain the surge in extreme cold in states like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, where winters are traditionally milder — and local authorities aren’t as equipped to deal with snow and ice as states where icy weather is more common," she says.

Which 3 states have no reported winter weather damages in the past 10 years?

Just three states have been safe recently from winter weather damage. In the past 10 years, there were no reported property damages related to winter weather in Hawaii, the District of Columbia or Delaware, making them great options if you’re looking for some risk-free winters.

Given the climates of these states, that’s pretty unsurprising. In Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, temperatures rarely dip below 63 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Weather Spark, while Washington, D.C., rarely dips below 30 degrees and the capital city in Delaware — Dover — rarely dips below 28 degrees. Compare that with the rarely below temperatures in the capitals of the states with the most damage from winter weather events in 2022 — Bismarck, N.D. (1 degree), Albany, N.Y. (17 degrees), and Montpelier, Vt. (10 degrees) — and you’ll see some significant differences.

That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be at risk for other severe weather damages, though. In another ValuePenguin study on flood risk, we found that flood risk is most underestimated in Hawaii — and Delaware makes the top 10 list for states with the greatest rise in estimated risk over the next 30 years.

Full rankings: States with the most winter weather damages, 2013 to 2022

Rank
State
Total damages
1New Mexico$405,440,000
2Texas$396,287,420
3Arizona$150,972,000
4Oregon$144,448,000
5Michigan$112,846,500
6Idaho$101,880,500
7Oklahoma$101,566,500
8South Dakota$94,267,000
9Minnesota$90,392,000
10Tennessee$79,496,000
11North Dakota$70,727,000
12New York$66,557,900
Show All Rows

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of NOAA data.

Winter weather deaths are on the rise

Through July, 64 deaths have been attributed to winter weather this year. (For example, winter weather hazards toward the middle of the year could involve hikers or climbers on snowy mountains.)

There have been 1,440 deaths in the 10 years since 2013. Looking at full years, winter weather fatalities jumped 54.2% between 2013 (153) and 2021 (236).

Total fatalities from winter weather, 2013 to 2022

Year
Fatalities
2013153
2014205
2015168
2016124
201785
2018139
2019158
2020108
2021236
202264

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of NOAA data. 2022 data is through July.

The cause of winter weather fatalities depends on the type of event occurring. According to the National Weather Service, 70% of ice- and snow-related deaths occur in cars, and 25% occur because someone’s caught in a storm. The majority of these deaths occur in men older than 40.

For fatalities related to exposure to cold, the National Weather Service finds that half occur in people older than 60. Over three-quarters of these deaths are men, and about 20% occur in the home — meaning that power outages (a common occurrence during cold weather) or lack of heating is likely to blame for these deaths.

Power outages certainly play a role in winter weather fatalities in Texas. In the 10 years examined, Texas has seen 224 winter weather fatalities — the most of any state. This comes after an extreme winter storm in February 2021 left more than 4.5 million Texas homes without power, resulting in at least 57 deaths across 25 Texas counties.

5 states with the most winter weather fatalities, 2013 to 2022

State
Fatalities
Texas224
Wisconsin132
Illinois87
Pennsylvania70
Colorado57

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of NOAA data.

Following Texas, Wisconsin tops the list for the most winter weather fatalities, with 132 over the past 10 years. That’s followed by Illinois, which has seen 87 winter weather fatalities in the same period. Both states are known for long, harsh winters — meaning that they may be well protected against property-related damages, but residents in these states are more at risk for winter weather injury and death than those in typically warmer climates.

Full rankings: States with the most winter weather fatalities, 2013 to 2022

Rank
State
Fatalities
1Texas224
2Wisconsin132
3Illinois87
4Pennsylvania70
5Colorado57
6California52
7Minnesota48
8Montana47
9Idaho46
10Kentucky43
11New York42
11South Dakota42
Show All Rows

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of NOAA and U.S Census Bureau data.

Expert tips on prepping your home against potential winter weather damages

If you’re at risk for winter weather damages, Sangameshwar says you typically shouldn’t be worried about potentially filing an insurance claim.

"Most home insurance policies cover standard types of damages when it comes to snow, wind, rain or ice," she says. "This includes damage from falling snow, ice damage and frozen or burst pipes. That said, not all types of winter damages are covered by homeowners insurance. For example, some homeowners insurance policies exclude cosmetic damages caused by wind and hail, so it’s important to talk to your insurer about wind or hail exclusions to see if you’re covered."

Notably, damage that occurs due to what the insurer perceives as homeowner negligence (or the failure of the homeowner to properly maintain or protect their property) isn’t covered under home insurance. While we recommend talking to your insurer about what they consider negligence, Sangameshwar recommends taking the following steps to properly prepare your home for winter weather and better ensure successful claims:

  • Check your insulation and pipes. "Freezing weather can lead to pipes leaking or bursting, while plummeting temperatures can make your home very cold and lead to very high heating bills," she says. "Double-check the insulation in your walls and attics, install weatherstrips on doors and windows, and use insulation sleeves on water pipes to keep your heat indoors."
  • Don’t forget your outdoor spigots and pipes. "During cold weather, shut off the water to your exterior water spigots, as they are vulnerable to pipe freezing and bursting," Sangameshwar says. "After you turn off the water supply to those spigots, turn on the pipes to allow remaining water to drain, and use spigot covers to prevent snow and ice from getting inside them."
  • Ensure your roof is prepared for heavy snow and ice. "A contractor can conduct an inspection to ensure your roof can withstand excessive snowfall and check for areas that need repairs to help keep the roof over your head leak-free," she says. "You should also keep your roof gutters clean and debris-free, and explore installing a water-repellent membrane under your roof covering to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof."

Methodology

ValuePenguin researchers analyzed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data to calculate the amount of property damages caused by winter weather events.

The categories examined were:

  • Heavy snow
  • Extreme cold
  • Ice storms
  • Winter weather
  • Blizzards
  • Cold/wind chill
  • Lake-effect snow
  • Winter storms
  • Frost/freeze
  • Sleet
  • Avalanches

We studied the 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2013 and the first seven months of 2022 — the latest available.

Total deaths include both those directly and indirectly caused by winter weather.