The rage of Mother Nature vs. the right insurance coverage

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Colorado’s Front Range lies within two volatile pathways known as “Hail Alley” and “Tornado Alley.” The state also tied with Florida last year for the most lightning casualties in the nation.

Two summers ago, golf-ball sized hail battered north Colorado Springs and Pueblo, causing $59.6 million in insured damages to residences and automobiles.

Prior to that, hailstorms during July 2004 and June 2002 caused $28 million and $24 million, respectively, in damages in the city.

It could be argued that El Paso County is overdue for a major hailstorm.

That said, this is an opportune time to beat Mother Nature to the proverbial punch and dust off that insurance policy for a closer look.

“Homeowners need to do an annual insurance policy check-up,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

Earlier this month, tornadoes and hail in the Denver-metro area caused $161.1 million in insured damages — the fifth most costly storm in Colorado’s history. By comparison, the worst storm damage caused by heavy snow and ice was $93.3 million, during 2003.

“These storms are a wake-up call,” Walker said. “The most hail damage occurs during June and July. It’s a good time to sit down with your agent and see if your homeowner’s policy includes roof-replacement.”

And for autos, people typically drop comprehensive coverage for older model cars, which usually makes sense.

“People shouldn’t carry more insurance than they need,” said Christina Loznicka, regional communication consultant with Allstate Insurance Co. “But a 20-year-old car is different than a six-year-old car you’ve just finished paying off — you want to have that conversation with your agent.”

Fire hazard

The same summer humidity that causes tornadoes and hail along the Front Range also brings lightning, which causes not only wildland fires, but home fires.

From 1980 to 2008, 87 people were killed by lightning in Colorado, and 391 were injured, according to the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

During 2008, lightning caused fires which burned 111,147 acres in the Rocky Mountain region.

So, it’s important to make an inventory of your belongings before there’s a problem — and to determine whether your insurance coverage is adequate.

“Use a digital or video camera and record what you own — then keep a copy of that disc off-site,” Loznicka said.

To reduce the risk of fire, homeowners should not have plants or grass next to the house, especially plants that tend to dry out during the summer.

“And if you know your house has been hit by lightning, keep an eye on it,” she said. “A house can smolder and people don’t even realize it’s about to catch fire.”

Flash floods are another disaster that local homeowners need to guard against with adequate insurance coverage.

“If you live in a high-flood area, consider a separate flood insurance policy,” Walker said. “But 20 to 25 percent of flood claims come from low to moderate risk areas — so at least have a look at your policy.”

Policies in some flood areas might only provide structural coverage, which does not cover personal belongings, she said.

And if something does happen to your car or home, be sure to grab your cell phone or camera and document it.

“Take photos before you clean up,” Loznicka said.