Preparing the Northwest

brought to you by NW Insurance Council

Extreme Winter Weather

Snow, ice, wind and freezing temperatures can devastate a home, business and property.  Broken water pipes, ice dams and weight-bearing snow are just a few of the catastrophic risks homeowners and business owners face during cold, wintry months.

Extreme Winter Weather Facts:

  • Winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, resulting in about $1 billion in insured losses annually.  Melting snow can inflict significant damage to property.  From 1998-2007, winter storms resulted in more than $24 billion in insured losses. (Insurance Information Institute)
  • An eighth-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water in as little as 24 hours.  That’s more than enough to damage hardwood floors, carpet and furniture.  Repairs and clean-up costs can be enormous. 
  • An average of a quarter-million families across the country have their homes severely damaged each winter because water pipes freeze and burst.
  • Water damage caused by a broken water pipe is covered under standard Homeowners, Renters and Business Owners insurance policies, less the deductible.
  • Roof collapse caused by snow is also covered under standard Homeowners and Business Owners insurance policies.  Contents damaged by the collapsed roof and snow are also covered up to the limits of the policy, less a deductible.
  • Damage to a vehicle caused by extreme winter weather is covered under the optional Comprehensive Coverage portion of an Auto Insurance policy, less the deductible.

Home and business prevention tips:

  • Maintain gutters.  Remove leaves, pinecones, sticks and other debris from gutters so melting snow and ice can flow freely.  This can prevent ice damming, which can push melting water under the roofing and into your attic.  You may also consider installing gutter guards. Available at most hardware stores, gutter guards are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and blocking drainpipes.
  • Trim trees and remove dead branches.  Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break - damaging your home or car.
  • Check insulation.  Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof.  The water will re-freeze, allowing more snow and ice to build up.  This can result in a collapsed roof.
  • Keep the house warm
    The temperature in your house should be at least 65 degrees.  The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves.  A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Maintain pipes.  Wrap pipes with pipe insulation or heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages that have exposed pipes. Also, check for cracks and leaks. Repair them immediately to prevent much costlier repairs.
  • Keep your house warm.  The temperature in the home should be at least 65 degrees. The air inside the walls where pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A room temperature below 65 will not keep pipes from freezing.
  • Get to know your plumbing.  Learn how to shut off the water and know where your home's pipes are located. If pipes freeze, you may be able to prevent the pipes from bursting by taking immediate action. Quickly shut off the water and direct your plumber to the problem.

Extreme winter weather safety tips:

Federal Emergency Management Agency
American Red Cross
What to do after a winter-weather storm