Why Are Hurricanes So Damaging?

Hurricanes are one of the costliest natural disasters in the world, and the costliest in the State of Florida. The 2019 hurricane season, which involved three major named hurricanes, cost billions of dollars in property damages. For example, Hurricane Dorian caused about $2 billion in damages in the Caribbean and $1.6 billion in the U.S. In 2020, Hurricane Sally ravaged many Florida properties. Many factors unique to hurricanes contribute to the extreme amount of damage they cause when they make landfall.

Wind Damage

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone – a rotating low-pressure weather system – that has sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour (mph). At 74 mph, it is a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. As a hurricane’s winds intensify, its category increases, up to a maximum of category 5. Category 3, 4 and 5 storms are major hurricanes with wind speeds of at least 111 mph.

Storm-force winds can cause major damage, such as flinging tree branches and other storm debris into homes, windows and vehicles. The wind itself can also take off roofs and increase the damage done by rain. Extreme winds of 150 mph or greater can pull down entire structures. Winds during a hurricane often knock down trees as well, causing related damage to properties, homes and powerlines.

Water, Flooding and Storm Surges

While the wind of a hurricane can certainly be damaging, it is the water that causes the greatest levels of property damage in Florida. Heavy rains before and after a hurricane, as well as storm surges and flooding, can cause severe property damage, as well as personal injuries and deaths. A hurricane brings seawater onto coastal land, known as a storm surge. In vulnerable areas along the coast, storm surges can cause disastrous and irreparable flooding. Further inland, water damage from heavy rainstorms and flooding can cost homeowners millions of dollars in repairs as well.

A large amount of water in a home can be damaging in itself. However, homeowners will also have to deal with damage created by water even after the storm has passed. Water infiltrating a home can lead to expensive wood rot and structural damage. It can also create toxic mold that a homeowner will have to get professionally removed. One of the major concerns homeowners have after hurricanes is the lack of flood insurance on their homeowners insurance policies. The average homeowners insurance policy does not cover flood damage. A homeowner will need a separate flood insurance plan for this type of coverage instead.

Tornadoes and Waterspouts

A hurricane in Florida has the potential to create tornadoes after making landfall. Most start as waterspouts, often forming just off the shore over a body of water, such as the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf. As the hurricane travels inland, some of its offshoot waterspouts can make landfall as well, becoming tornadoes. Waterspout tornadoes can cause a great deal of both wind and water damage.

In other cases, the most severe cells of a hurricane can create tornadoes over land. Tornadoes can wreak havoc on properties with extreme winds that can destroy buildings and toss debris miles away. Tornadoes can be deadly for people who choose to shelter in place during a hurricane, as well as those who do not receive tornado warnings due to power outages. The risk of tornadoes makes hurricanes a double threat in Florida.

What to Do About Hurricane Damage in Tampa

Insurance companies know how damaging hurricanes can be, especially in vulnerable areas such as South Florida. Unfortunately, many insurance companies still try to avoid liability by denying property damage claims connected to hurricanes and other bad storms. If your family suffered property damages or injuries in a recent hurricane in Tampa, contact an insurance lawyer for assistance negotiating a fair settlement.