February 16th, 2016 in Financial/Insurance, Winter

Icy Weather Gets a Chilly Reception from Insurance Carriers

On January 14th, 2016 Justin Yelen learned the hard way just how much damage ice can cause when he parked his car overnight near a restaurant in upstate New York. The next day mother nature had paid a cruel joke encasing his car in inches of ice. Lucky for Justin no one was hurt, and we’re free to get a chuckle out of his unusual scenario. But the scary truth is that ice is very destructive and far stronger than most people realize.

  • Ice can increase the weight of branches by 30 times, pulling down branches and trees almost at will.
  • A 1/2-inch accumulation of ice on power lines can add 500 pounds of extra weight accounting for high risks of outages. In fact, an ice storm in 2009 centered from northern Arkansas to the Ohio Valley knocked out power to 1.3 million.
  • In 1998, an ice storm with accumulations up to 3 inches thought in the north of New York, and northern New England caused $1.4 billion in damage.
  • Ice can even cause something meteorologists call galloping. Galloping occurs with relatively little ice accumulation, but high winds are causing power lines to rise and fall 6 to 8 feet.

It’s no wonder that ice and wind-related insurance claims are larger in number than any other household claims category – including fires.

While your homeowners and automobile insurance probably protect you from the financial burden of ice damage, insurance claims are only paid if reasonable preventative measures were taken. This is especially so for damage resulting from frozen pipes, or ice dams on your roof. The local weather forecast is your best weapon in the fight against ice. During winter weather especially December, January, and February, be sure to monitor the weather forecast for three critical conditions: precipitation, wind & temperature. When the ice in any of its many forms: hail, sleet or freezing rain is predicted, be proactive by remembering these guidelines.

  • Avoid driving when freezing rain and ice conditions are expected.
  • Keep your home warm when it is left unattended during icy conditions.
  • Be sure water is flowing, even a small drip, when pipes are at risk of freezing to keep water from causing a pipe failure.
  • Have a safe & warm location to go should the power go off for an extended period. Avoid the temptation to heat your home with portable heating devices, an open flame or your oven.
  • Keep ice dams from accumulating on your roof with proper snow removal and roof maintenance.
  • Be aware of tree limbs that overhang critical areas of your home and consider trimming limbs to reduce the risk of damage should they give way to the weight of ice.
  • Stock up on non-perishable food items to eat during severe driving conditions or a power outage. Food spoils in a closed refrigerator in as little as four hours.

Not only will monitoring weather forecasts keep your headaches to a minimum, but insurance companies are also looking for ways to reward cautious behavior.  Taking a queue from health insurance companies that pay consumers for joining a gym or buying healthy groceries, homeowner and automobile insurers want to encourage you to engage proactively in ice damage prevention.  For example, you can expect in the future that your carrier will monitor icy road conditions and reward you if you stay off the roads.  USB monitor devices make this a near-term possibility.

If insurance carriers have their way, you’ll have another reason to be cautious – policy rewards.

This winter may you stay warm, dry and prepared for the dangers of ice.

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