North Carolina Coast Takes on Hurricane Alex

August 3, 2004

With maximum sustained winds of almost 100 miles per hour, tropical storm-turned-Hurricane Alex is moving along the coast of North Carolina toward the Outer Banks, and local property owners should take some basic precautions to ensure that their property is covered if the hurricane hits hard, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

As of 5 p.m. (Eastern Time), the storm’s center was about 65 miles northeast of Cape Hatteras and moving away from the Outer Banks, according to information from the National Hurricane Center.

“Many coastal property owners were hit with heavy water damage last year in the wake of Hurricane Isabel,” Don Griffin, vice president of commercial lines for the PCI, said. “Even if the storm ultimately fizzles out, it’s a good idea to take precautionary measures to prevent damage and check your insurance policy to make sure any hurricane damages will be covered.”

The National Hurricane Center classified Alex as a Category 2 storm after sustained winds exceeded 96 miles per hour. Although the Center expects Alex to stay on track from north to northeast, any westward deviance could carry the center onto shore.

The storm began Saturday as a tropical depression and developed velocity as it paralleled the Carolinas coast. However, evacuation orders were left to the discretion of local authorities.

The Hurricane Center expected rainfall accumulations from 3 to 6 inches, with coastal storm surge flooding of two to four feet above normal on Atlantic shorelines. The predicted storm surge from Alex is three to five feet above normal.

Homeowners and commercial property insurance policies generally cover water damage from burst pipes, but do not typically cover damage arising from flooding from outside sources. Although property owners can purchase flood insurance as a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program, there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect.

“There are more coastal property exposures in North Carolina than ever before, and these properties are always vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes,” Robert Herlong, vice president and regional manager for PCI, added. “People with property in hurricane-prone coastal areas like the Outer Banks can purchase policies with hurricane deductibles of two to five percent of a home’s insured value,” he said. “It’s also a good idea for people who live near flood-prone areas to purchase flood insurance as well since a significant number of flood losses occur to property outside an identified flood plain.”

According to the National Weather Service, inland flooding can occur as far as 500 miles from the site of a hurricane. While flooding is not covered by a typical homeowners or business policy, coverage is available through one’s agent or company that is backed by the National Flood Insurance Program. Flooding is reportedly the most dangerous and deadly problem caused by hurricanes.

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