Nearly 7 million homes across the country are at risk of hurricane or storm-related damage — havoc that could result in more than $1.6 trillion in potential reconstruction costs, according to a study by CoreLogic released Thursday.
Large numbers of homeowners are unaware of the damage that could be caused by this year’s storm season. And while Florida, Louisiana, Texas and other coastal states are facing high risks of flooding damage, millions of homes farther inland are also in danger of damage during the heaviest periods of hurricane season between July and September, according to the new study.
“It’s not the number of storms that’s important, it’s where they’re going to occur,” Dr. Tom Jeffery, CoreLogic’s senior hazard scientist said, adding that the number of endangered homes rises each year due to new construction.
In particular, 3.9 million homes along the Atlantic Coast as far north as Maine are at risk of being damaged, according to the study. Despite being fifth on the list of states with the highest numbers of at-risk properties, New York has the second-highest estimated costs of reconstruction ($190 billion) due in part to its high-density zoning and lack of general awareness of storm risk. Nationwide, the cost of reconstruction has also risen 6.6 percent compared to 2017.
The first step in protecting property against storm and hurricane damage is knowing if your home is at risk, Jeffery said. Once people know, they can choose to get insurance and prepare by moving personal objects to another floor or house in case of a storm warning.
“Preparation really involves foreknowledge,” Jeffery said. “It’s just too frequent, it’s just too common. It’s heartbreaking when you hear people say, ‘Oh, I’ve lived here for 20 years, and we’ve never had a storm that caused flooding.'”
Last year, the U.S. was pummeled by some of the biggest storms of the past decade. Hurricane Harvey, which largely hit Texas, was estimated to cause at least $180 billion damage while Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean islands and South Florida, was estimated to have caused at least $100 billion in damage.
This year is not likely to be as heavily hit by storms, Jeffery said. But while that may sound positive, it could create what he described as “hurricane amnesia,” in which people forget how much havoc a storm can wreak.
“You are not going to move or build a wall around your own property or anything like that,” Jeffery said. “But what you can do is see what the liability is of having that property insured for flood [damage].”