Local News

Hurricane Insurance: Learning from the State's Damaged Past

Posted May 30, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Since 1995, North Carolina has been hit hard by severe weather. Five hurricanes have pounded the state costing $1.7 billion in insured losses.

After striking the coast, Hurricane Fran blasted inland North Carolina. Hurricane Bertha also swept inland. Property owners learned the hard way about insurance coverage.

"I think I'm a little bit better educated as to what actually is covered," says homeowner Tom Cecchettini, who's house was destroyed by Fran.

"I suspect there are still a lot of people that really haven't heard the message yet," says Bill Stevens who heads the Consumer Services Division of the Department of Insurance.

Damage like Fran can leave homeowners holding the bag if their policy covers only actual cash value, rather than replacement cost.

"A person can buy additional coverage to get replacement cost on the personal property as well," Stevens said. "And I think a lot of people would be interested in having that."

Apartment dwellers are encouraged to buy renters' insurance to cover their personal belongings, but standard policies do not cover flood damage.

"Most homeowners' policies will not provide coverage for flood," Stevens said. "Out in the coastal areas a lot of the damage is caused by rising waters or flood."

When a home has been leveled by a severe storm, it is impossible to remember all your belongings.

"Get your video camera out and go around to every room, and just talk as you go and document everything that you have," Cecchettini said.

Insurance experts then suggest storing the tape away from the home. They also say to get the insurance and property ready now before the first storm threatens.

Insurance companies stop selling insurance when storms approach the coast. Anyone who needs to buy insurance, or change their policy, do it well in advance of a threatening storm.

Forecasters predict nine hurricanes this year, with four of those becoming intense storms.