Are You Prepared for Hurricane Season?
Hurricane season officially begins in Texas on June 1 and runs through the end of November, with peak hurricane activity typically occurring in August and September. Weather forecasters have predicted an above-average likelihood of a major hurricane striking along the Texas Gulf Coast this year. Although residents of coastal areas are most at risk, tropical storm systems can travel hundreds of miles inland, creating the potential for wind damage and flash flooding throughout the state. Planning ahead can help you protect yourself, your family, and your property during hurricane season.
Review Your Insurance Coverage
Make certain your homeowners or commercial property coverage is current and that it provides adequate coverage to pay the full replacement cost of your property. Read your policy carefully! Make sure you understand what the policy does and does not cover and what your policy's limits are. You may have to buy separate policies to cover wind, hail, and flood damage.
Windstorm insurance. If your property is located in one of Texas' 14 coastal counties or parts of southeastern Harris County, your policy might exclude coverage for windstorm and hail damage. You'll need to purchase this coverage separately from a special insurance pool called the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). To qualify for TWIA coverage, your property must pass a windstorm inspection and must meet certain windstorm-resistant building standards. You cannot buy or change TWIA coverage once a hurricane has entered the Gulf of Mexico. For more information about windstorm coverage, call TWIA or visit its website
For information about the windstorm inspection program, call the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) Windstorm Inspections Division or visit the TDI website
Flood insurance. Homeowners and commercial property policies do not pay for flood damages caused by rising waters. To protect yourself from losses caused by most flooding, you'll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period after the purchase date before coverage takes effect, so if you do not have a policy, you should obtain one as soon as possible. For more information about flood insurance, contact the NFIP
"Law and Ordinance" coverage. If your property does not meet current municipal building codes and is heavily damaged in a storm, most municipalities will require that you bring your home into compliance when you make repairs. Some homeowners policies cover the additional costs of complying with building codes or other similar laws and ordinances. Others, however, do not.
If your policy does not include this coverage, or if you think you need more coverage than your policy provides, you may be able to add it or increase your limit. Ask your agent whether your policy covers additional expenses to meet local building codes and to inquire about adding or increasing law and ordinance coverage. To learn whether your structure is in compliance with current building codes, contact your municipal planning department.
Auto insurance. State law requires all drivers to maintain liability insurance, which pays for injuries and damages you cause to other people and their cars. Liability coverage does not pay for any type of damage to your own vehicle, however. You will need to purchase additional coverage, known as "comprehensive" or "damage other than collision" coverage to protect your vehicle from damage caused by hail, flood, fire, or theft.
Inventory Your Property
It's a good idea to keep an inventory of the items you own. If your home or property is damaged, accurate records can help speed up the claims process and can help you prove tax-deductible uninsured losses. Photograph or videotape each room and the exterior of your home. List serial numbers on the items you can. Keep your inventory, your insurance policy, and any other important documents in a safe deposit box or other secure spot. Use our Home Inventory Checklist to help you get started.
Make a Safety Plan
If a hurricane threatens your area, you may have to make a decision whether to stay in your home or evacuate. Whenever local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave. The advice of authorities is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for death and destruction. And if you live on the coastline or an offshore island, near a river or in a flood plain, it's also a good idea to leave. Develop a safety plan in advance to help guide the important decisions you may have to make before a storm.
- Map out safe routes inland or to safer areas. If you live in a low-lying area, know where low-water crossings might make travel to safety more difficult and plan routes that avoid these areas.
- Find out the location of any nearby community shelters in case you must seek immediate shelter.
- When a hurricane watch is issued for your area - an alert that a storm has not yet hit, but conditions are likely in the days or hours ahead - regularly check TV and radio for official weather bulletins.
- If you decide that it's safe to stay, understand that you may be without electricity, fresh water, and phone service for some time and prepare accordingly. Stock up on canned goods and bottled water; check supplies of first-aid equipment and medicines, including any prescriptions you take; and check batteries in radios and flashlights.
- Work out a way for family members to communicate in case you must leave your home or if there is a disruption in local phone service. For instance, agree on a friend or relative who lives outside your immediate area who can serve as a point of contact in an emergency.
Protect Your Property
When a hurricane watch is issued for your area, the following measures can help prevent or minimize damage to your home or property:
- Protect windows, sliding glass doors, and skylights with shutters or plywood.
- Put your car in a garage or other shelter. Secure boats and trailers. Secure outdoor furniture and any other loose material outside.
- If possible, trim back any dead wood from trees. This will reduce the amount of wind stress on trees and eliminate potential damage from falling limbs.
- Move valuables away from windows and, if possible, to an upper floor.
- Bring pets indoors or make other arrangements for their safety. If you must seek shelter in a community shelter, understand that you might not be able to keep your pets with you. Contact your local humane society for information about animal shelters.
- If you are leaving your home, lock and secure the premises. Take small valuables and important documents with you. It's a good idea to take copies of your home inventory and insurance policies and cards.
For More Information or Assistance
If you have questions about insurance, call TDI's Consumer Help Line or visit the TDI website
463-6515 in Austin
View our Storm Warnings publication.
Visit our StormLink Internet resource page.
If you have an insurance-related complaint, we may be able to help. You may file a complaint with TDI in a variety of ways:
- by completing the complaint form
- by e-mail at
- by fax at 512-475-1771
- by mail at
Texas Department of Insurance
Consumer Protection Program
P.O. Box 149091
Austin, TX 78714-9091
For more information contact:
Last updated: 03/26/2013