In the U.S. when most people hear the words “tropical storm damage” they automatically think about hurricanes. And while most tropical storm damage is associated with hurricanes, there is still a lot of damage done by tropical storms that never reach official hurricane status.
Tropical storms are not even named until their winds reach speeds of 34 knots or 39 miles per hour. Storm winds must reach beyond 64 knots, 74 miles per hour, before they are considered to be a hurricane or a cyclone. Hurricanes originate in the Atlantic Ocean or the Caribbean Sea. Cyclones usually form in the Pacific Ocean.
Tropical storms form over large bodies of warmer water and in addition to strong winds and rain, these storms can create high waves, storm surges, and also spin off tornadoes as they cross onto land. Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable, however inland regions can still suffer heavier than normal rains and severe flooding. Storm surges have been known to affect waterways 25 miles inland from the coast.
High-speed winds can create multiple types of damage. They can tear off roofing materials, rip off gutters and flashings, and knock down chimneys. Skylights and windows can be broken by debris that has been slammed into them after the winds have caused the debris to become airborne.
Heavier then normal rains that come from tropical storms can cause several different issues. Because the rain is wind-driven, it can force its way under weakened bonds on shingles and through any gap around windows and doors. It is not unusual for tropical storms to blow down trees, and they may fall on power lines and knock out electrical power. This lack of electricity makes extracting the rainwater much more difficult and can result in greater damage to your home.
Tidal surges or storm surges are coastal floods caused by waters being forced up creeks or rivers that flow into large bodies of water and that rise beyond what is considered as normal tidal fluctuations. These surges can last for hours or days and affect hundreds of square miles. They can cause sustained flooding that can adversely affect sanitary sewers, buildings, bridges, and roads. Their severity depends on the strength of the wind, the height of the tide, how fast the storm is moving toward the coast, the angle of approach, and how shallow or deep the bottom is when it arrives. As anyone who remembers when Hurricane Katrina came ashore in 2005, the tidal surge destroyed dams and levies and nearly wiped the city of New Orleans off the map.
Wind is one of the most prevalent types of tropical storm damage. At wind speeds of about 70 miles per hour, shingles can be blown off and tree limbs can be downed. At speeds approaching 130 to 156 miles per hour, a Category 4 hurricane, entire roofs can be blown off, mobile homes can be destroyed, windows can be blown out, trees can be uprooted, and there is a very high risk of being struck by flying debris. A Category 5 hurricane, with winds of 157 miles per hour or more, can knock down power poles, destroy metal buildings completely, and endanger humans and animals with flying debris, even if the animals or people are indoors. A Category 5 hurricane means nearly total destruction of anyone or anything that lies within its path.
Sometimes mold will become an issue soon after a major tropical storm. Because tropical storm damage is usually so wide spread, and time becomes a critical factor, it can be next to impossible to get contractors to respond quickly to your needs. Typically mold can begin to grow in as little as 48 hours. But when dealing with seawater and its many contaminates, mold can set in and begin to grow much, much quicker.
It’s never easy to tell the difference between flood damage and water damage caused by wind. It is also almost certain that your insurance policy will not cover flood damage. You never want to report your claim by saying “my home has been flooded”. Instead say, “my home was damaged by water” (unless it really was caused by flooding). Coverage for flood damage must be purchased as a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program.
The main distinction between water damage and flood damage is where the water came from. If the water came from the sky, it mostly likely will result in a water damage claim. If the water flowed across the ground and into your home, it is a flood damage claim. Also, if the water affected your home but not your neighbor’s, you likely have a water damage claim. If the same waters affected you both, it is probably the result of a flood.
If wind caused a breech or break in your home’s structure (a hole in the roof or a broken window), and water enters as a result of that breech, you should be covered. This coverage will include damage to drywall, electrical damage, mold, damage to furnishings, and damage to other types of personal possessions.
Another thing that you must do to be covered for tropical storm damage is that you must have taken steps to attempt to prevent some or all of the damage caused by the storm. If a tropical storm warning is issued and you evacuate your family but fail to board up your windows or doors, you have not made an attempt to prevent any damage that you knew, or suspected, was likely to occur.
More people live and work near a coastline in the United States then ever before in our history. When a tropical storm happens, it affects not only your family’s normal existence, but also the cost of labor, repair materials, and the availability and cost of adequate temporary housing. If your home has suffered any type of tropical storm damage and you need assistance with any part of the damage, call 877-960-0491 twenty-four hours a day. You will be connected to a local, pre-qualified, experienced professional that can answer your questions, offer free advice, and get help out to your home quickly.
Written by Mark Huey.