For most of the US, seeing a few inches of snow accumulate on the ground isn’t a big deal.
Combine that with up to an inch of ice, strong winds, and freezing temperatures, though, and you’ve got a nasty situation on your hands. Especially if you live in a part of the country that isn’t used to such weather.
That’s just what around half of the country encountered early this year thanks to what The Weather Channel called Winter Storm Pandora. It whipped through the Rockies, the Midwest, the South, and the Northeast between Feb. 20 and 22 before petering out.
Along the way, it brought all sorts of severe weather to the states and cities in its path. Among them: bitterly cold temperatures, gusty winds, freezing rain, and heaps of snow. It also caused shocking amounts of damage, destruction, and death.
Snow, Snow, and More Snow (Plus Some Ice Too)
A few examples of the havoc Pandora wreaked on Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, and other locales:
- Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont all saw between seven and 11 inches of snow in places
- Virginia and West Virginia received as much as 19 and 24 inches or snow, respectively
- Kentucky got up to eight inches of snow, while nearly a half-inch of ice hit areas of Alabama
Speaking of Alabama, it served as the site of one of the most dramatic stories to come out of Pandora. A car accident caused by the snow and ice that accumulated in the northern part of the state brought traffic on I-65 to a halt for more than 13 hours.
That’s a perfect example of why you have to make sure you’ve got enough auto insurance, by the way. Liability coverage, required in most states, protects you if you crash into another vehicle (or one crashes into yours), but you need optional collision coverage if you hit anything else.
Tennessee’s One-Two Punch
As dramatically as Pandora impacted states from the Rockies all the way to the Northeast, Tennessee arguably suffered the brunt of the storm.
Not only did the Volunteer State see as much as nine inches of snow fall in spots, but it saw up to an inch of ice as well.
Making matters worse: two other winter storms hit the middle part of the state a few days earlier. Some areas still had a half-inch of ice on trees and power lines when Pandora arrived.
As a result, the roofs of numerous Tennessee homes collapsed and many trees, power lines, and telephone poles snapped. Like in Alabama, the storm prompted countless traffic accidents and delays.
Even worse, officials believe at least 30 people died in Tennessee due to the inclement weather. (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania also reported Pandora-related fatalities.)
Pandora’s Insurance Impact
What kind of insurance losses did Pandora cause in the places it hit? Unfortunately, no one has released any specific figures or even estimates.
Still, it’s likely the storm was a costly one both for the people living in the regions mentioned earlier and the insurance companies that serve them.
After all, according to Munich Re, winter storms caused about $2.3 billion in insured losses in the US in 2014. The Germany-based reinsurer came up with that figure by combining the losses tied to 11 major storms.
In other words, each of last year’s winter storms produced damage worth about $209 million, on average – from an insurance perspective.
Also, the Insurance Information Institute recently blamed winter weather for 15 percent of all insured auto, home, and business catastrophe losses in the US last year.
Common Types of Winter Damage and Destruction
Do you live anywhere in the country that could experience similar conditions this winter? Keep the following in mind if you want to avoid these sorts of losses:
- High winds often cause trees to fall on cars, houses, and other buildings
- Snow and ice, especially if left to accumulate over time, regularly leads to roof damage and even collapse
- Also, ice can seal off your home’s gutters, prompting water to back up and damage its interior
- It isn’t unusual for frigid temps to make pipes freeze and burst
Homeowners Insurance Has You Covered
Also keep in mind that standard homeowners and renters insurance policies cover the most common types of damage associated with winter weather. That includes damage caused by wind, weight of ice or snow (such as in the roof example, above), or severe cold.
Something your typical homeowners policy won’t cover is flood damage. And that includes damage done by melting snow that prompts sewers to back up into your home’s drains.
To protect against flooding, you’ll have to buy optional coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program or one of its handful of private partners.