If you’re new to the coast hurricane insurance isn’t something you’ve had to worry about before. Even if you’re native to the coast things have changed.
Insurance policies started to get less generous in 2006 after seven hurricanes hit the U.S. back-to-back between 2004 and 2005 – including Hurricane Katrina. As storms began to have more financial impact on coastal areas, insurance companies began shifting the risk to consumers.
What Hurricane Insurance Covers: The Basics
There isn’t one insurance policy that covers hurricane damage. You’ll need a mix of homeowner’s, wind and hail, and flood insurance. Keep in mind wind and hail and flood insurance can be riders to your homeowner’s policy.
- Wind and hail policies cover damage from wind, hail, and rain, such as downed trees, and roof and window damage.
- Flooding policies cover damage from water that rises from the ground.
- Homeowner’s policies vary but usually cover damage from fire and theft, and living expenses if your home is destroyed.
The Named Storm Trigger
In South Carolina insurers can charge special (larger) deductibles for hurricane damage. Your “named storm” insurance deductible can be a fixed amount, but it can also be a percentage of your property value. This deductible can kick in when a storm is named, not just when it becomes a hurricane.
When Tropical Storms are Worse Than Hurricanes
Even if Charleston isn’t hit by a major hurricane, you’ll still need wind and hail and flood insurance because tropical storms can be just as damaging as hurricanes. For example, in 2016 Hurricane Mathew, a Category 1 hurricane, had a peak storm tide in Charleston that was 3.5’ higher than normal. When Irma hit Charleston in 2017 as a tropical storm, the peak storm tide was 4.15’ higher than average and caused more flooding than Matthew.
There is logic to how this happens:
- Most wind damage occurs in the right front quadrant of a storm that is moving north.
- The most storm surge occurs on the left front quadrant
- The right bottom left quadrant has the weakest winds.
Therefore storm damage has much to do with how a rotating storm hits, and when it hits in relation to high tide.
Charleston’s Hurricane History
To put all of that into perspective there have been:
- no Category 5 hurricanes to hit South Carolina since 1900
- 24 hurricanes, 10 of which were Category 2 – 4 since 1851
- three Category 4 hurricanes: Hazel in 1954, Gracie in 1959, and Hugo in 1989
In recent history, coastal South Carolina has been hit by five weak storms: Tropical Storm Kyle (2002), Hurricanes Gaston and Charlie in 2004, Tropical Storm Ana (2015) and Tropical Depression Bonnie (2016).
Locals like to say, “we’re due” for a major hurricane, but in truth there is no pattern. Still, you need to be prepared before a storm is on the horizon. Most insurance policies have a 30-day delay, meaning if a named storm hits within 30 days of taking out the policy, you aren’t eligible for benefits.
Talking To Your Agent Before You Buy
While you’re the beginning stages of buying a home in the Charleston area, talk with your insurance agent about what insurance premiums will cost. They’ll be a part of the cost of owning your home, and it’s better not to be surprised at the last minute.