No Insurance Implication for Weather Channel’s Decision to Name Winter Storms

By | February 14, 2013

The Weather Channel’s decision this winter season to start naming severe winter storms in the U.S. — such as bestowing the name “Nemo” for the massive Feb. 8-9 winter storm — most likely will not have any implication for “named-storm clauses” found in many property policies, the Insurance Information Institute said.

Under named-storm clauses, policyholders may be subject to higher deductibles when covered losses arise from storms that were given names by the National Weather Service, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration or other major meteorological authority.

“The named-storm clauses requiring higher deductibles typically have to do with wind speeds set forth by the National Weather Service, ” said Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

There are two kinds of wind damage deductibles: hurricane deductibles, which apply to damage solely from hurricanes, and windstorm or wind/hail deductibles, which apply to any kind of wind damage. Percentage deductibles typically vary from 1 percent of a home’s insured value to 5 percent. In some coastal areas with high wind risk, hurricane deductibles may be higher.

The amount that the homeowner will pay depends on the home’s insured value and the “trigger” selected by the insurance company, which determines under what circumstances the deductible applies. In some states, policyholders may have the option of paying a higher premium in return for a traditional dollar deductible, depending on how close to the shore they live. In some high-risk coastal areas, insurers may not give policyholders this option, making the percentage deductible mandatory.

Hurricane triggers vary by state and insurer and may apply when the National Weather Service (NWS) “names” a tropical storm, declares a hurricane watch or warning or defines the hurricane’s intensity.

Triggers generally include a timing factor, i.e., damage occurring within 24 hours before the storm is named or a hurricane makes landfall up to as long as 72 hours after the hurricane is downgraded to a lesser storm or a hurricane watch cancelled. But winter weather has never been included in this.

Hurricanes and tropical storms have been given names since the 1940s — while weather systems, including winter storms, have been named in Europe since the 1950s.

The Weather Channel, a major weather forecast and weather-related news network headquartered in Atlanta, announced last October that it will begin naming winter storms starting with the 2012-2013 winter season, a first in the U.S. The name Nemo, given by the channel for the Feb. 8-9 winter storm, has been widely used by public officials and news outlets.

“The Weather Channel has named winter storms because they feel it raises awareness, which is a good thing as we want people to be better prepared for winter storms, too,” Worters said. She said the Weather Channel states that attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress, and a storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.

The Weather Channel said that in today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication, and a named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.

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