Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an extremely active end to the hurricane season with up to 11 hurricanes forming between now and November. With an overactive hurricane season upcoming, it’s vital homeowners prepare for potential risks to their properties.

Here’s how to assess your home for hurricane risk, how to make sure you have the best homeowners insurance to cover hurricane damage, and expert tips on making sure you buy coverage at the right time. 

NOAA forecasts up to 11 hurricanes by the end of the year

The 2020 hurricane season has been extremely busy and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found conditions in the Atlantic are primed for more activity than usual this time of the year. In fact, their findings indicate “this is one of the most active forecasts in the 22 years NOAA has been predicting storms.” Their outlook indicates we could have as many as 19 to 25 more storms named, of which up to 11 could become hurricanes, and up to six of those could end up being at least a Category 3 in strength. 

Because of the unusual high level of activity in the Atlantic, it’s important for homeowners living in coastal areas to prepare for the busy end of the season. The first step in preparation is for you to understand the risks posed by hurricanes in your area.

How to assess hurricane risk in your area

Hurricanes pose a multifaceted risk due to their intense winds and storm surge flooding. Storm surge is where the water level rises higher than what it would during tide conditions predicted for that time. The wind blowing water onto shore is the driving force behind creating the surge and the subsequent flooding. 

On the flooding end alone, more than 24 million living on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast could be at risk of incurring property damage during a storm surge depending on the strength of the hurricane. To illustrate, a Category 5 storm hitting Florida could impact close to eight million people, according to NOAA. And depending on the height of the storm surge, not only could it damage homes, it could shut down ports, interstates, and airports.

Therefore, when accessing the hurricane risk in your area, you’ll want to start with how susceptible your area is to storm surges. Not surprisingly, those living in coastal areas are the most at risk; in fact, the Insurance Information Institute ranked the storm surge risk by state, with these five states at the top:

  1. Florida
  2. Louisiana
  3. Texas
  4. New Jersey
  5. New York

Finding out if your area is prone to flooding is simple thanks to FEMA’s mapping tool. Just type in your address and from there, it assigns a risk rating. Typically, zones ranking A or V have higher risks of flooding while zones beginning with an X have a more moderate risk. Knowing the flood risks in your area can help you determine the proper insurance for your home. 

How to ensure you have the financial protection you need

A standard home insurance policy does protect you in certain weather events, such as your home incurring wind or rain damage resulting from a hurricane. However, it won’t cover you in all instances. In particular, your homeowner’s policy won’t cover any damage from flooding due to storm surges. 

Therefore, to provide added protection, you’ll want to buy flood insurance. Most policies cost a few hundred dollars annually, yet it can prevent you from having to pay out of pocket if your personal property is damaged due to flooding. And if you have a mortgage and live in a flood zone, your lender will likely require you to have it. 

Along with adding flood insurance, timing plays a huge role in ensuring you have the protection you need. “Homeowners need to know of the no bind box,” says Zachary Staruch, managing broker for The Pelican Team Real Estate

“It’s an area that covers roughly 16,000 square miles and includes all of Florida and much of the southeastern United States as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the western part of the Atlantic Ocean,” Staruch adds. “Whenever there’s an active storm in the box, insurance companies will not issue a homeowners insurance policy. So if you are planning on buying a new home and need insurance, make sure there’s no storms in the box or you won’t be able to get a policy.”

By having homeowners and flood insurance policies, you’ll have the coverage you need to financially protect you from any wind and storm surge damage from a hurricane. Just make sure to buy before a storm is in the no bind box. 

The bottom line 

NOAA estimates the 2020 hurricane season will continue to be busy, with as many as six storms having the potential to form a Category 3 strength or more. If you live in or near a coastal area, your home could be susceptible to damage from storm surges, and since even the best home insurance doesn’t usually cover flood damage, it’s imperative to add flood insurance to safeguard your finances in case a hurricane hits your area.

About the Authors

Sean Jackson

Sean Jackson Contributing Writer

Sean Jackson is a freelance journalist who has covered insurance, internet, home services and other topics for Reviews.com, ESPN, CBS, and the San Francisco Chronicle.