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Seals, Sharks, and Tornadoes, Oh My!

written by Paul Ostrander

On July 23rd at 11:57 AM the first of three confirmed tornadoes touched down on Cape Cod. It came ashore in Barnstable, the second touched down in Harwich, and a third in West Yarmouth.

The tornadoes brought torrential downpours, 110 mph wind, and dozens of lightning strikes. The tornadoes’ rage lasted only 14 minutes, but the power outage and clean-up lasted for days.  

Our office started receiving calls while these events were occurring on Cape Cod.  We received 4 calls in 45 minutes.  Our clients called about downed trees, damaged vehicles, and debris hitting their homes. Our New England customers are used to snow, rain, and fire losses, but never those caused by a tornado. In addition to our clients’ being directly affected by the tornadoes, we also received calls from a few Bellingham clients asking if they would be covered. Here is a quick overview of how tornado damage would apply to your policies.

First and foremost, whether we call the event a tornado, hurricane, or microburst, they are all considered “wind” losses. Wind damage is a covered peril under your homeowner policy, and it’s a covered loss under your auto policy if you carry “comprehensive” coverage. One customer had wind rip the shingles off their roof, which was covered. Another customer had a tree blown onto his house, which was also a covered claim. We had a customer’s vehicle severely damaged from debris flying through the air, and this was covered also.  

The only stipulation to coverage is how your deductible applies. Your auto insurance policy will usually have a standard $500 or $1,000 comprehensive deductible; that is simple. However, homes near the coast or on Cape Cod will sometimes come with a 2% “Named Storm Deductible” or “Wind Deductible.” The 2% is calculated from the “Coverage A Dwelling” amount on your policy.  

For example, if your Coverage A Dwelling amount is $400,000, then the 2% deductible for “Named Storms” or “Wind” would be $8,000. That means the insurance company will help pay only when your home has incurred more than $8,000 in wind damages.  We see these deductible requirements mostly with homes within 1-2 miles of the ocean.  

Auto insurance comprehensive coverage is very broad and covers all-natural disasters.  Although your homeowner’s insurance policy covers wind from a tornado or debris from a volcano (true), it does not cover earthquakes (mudslides and tremors included) or flooding. You would need to purchase extra coverage for earthquake protection and purchase a separate flood policy. 
Remember, whether a windstorm blows some shingles off your roof or a tornado sends your family farm to the Land of Oz, your homeowner’s and auto insurance policy will cover the claim with the correct coverage.  




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