Homeowners insurance blog

Hurricanes: What’s in a Name?

The Battle of the Sexes has taken to the high seas. Or rather, hurricanes that strike off the high seas and cause death and destruction inland.

One science journal warns that  storms named for women doesn’t feel as threatening and, as a result, have a death rate that’s nearly three times as high as male-named storms. The Insurance Information Institute says storms named for men pack a more potent punch. That is, if you count storm-damage price tag.

Hurricanes given female names carry higher death rates than their male counterparts, about 3 to 1, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The journal studies biological, physical and social sciences.

What the studies says and its critics

The World Meteorological Organization has named storms since 1950. Back then, all carried female names. Since 1979, the list has included male names. More than one storm can develop at a time. Named storms help residents, emergency response personnel and researchers keep track.

The WMO releases a list before hurricane season. It includes worldwide recognized names, alternating female and male monikers.. A storm gets named when it reaches sustained winds of 39 mph. At that point, it’s difficult to predict how strong a storm will get.

The PNAS determined that severe storms with women’s names caused an average of 42 deaths. For storms named after men, it was 15. Audrey (1957, at least 550 deaths) and Katrina (2005, 1,833 deaths) weren’t even included.

The study has been criticized in many corners. The most common complaint is that the death toll from hurricanes has decreased significantly since 1979, when storms began being named after men. Once you eliminate the pre-1979 storms, the fatalities are much closer:  459 deaths from storms named after women and 413 for those named after men. Even that gets skewed when you consider one of the hurricanes counted as a female names is ‘Sandy,’ which also could be a male name.

Insurance has a different take on the name game. It calculated insured losses. Five of the eight costliest U.S. storms carried masculine names, according to the III. The most costly male-named storm  –Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Homestead, Fla. in 1992, causing $23.3 billion in damage.

Be ready regardless of the name

Standard home owners insurance typically covers damage caused by wind, but it won’t cover flooding – a frequent byproduct of hurricanes. You’ll need separate flood coverage for that.. States along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have felt the impact of hurricanes, so consider carefully whether you need flood insurance.

You can buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance program. FEMA runs this program.

FEMA says a quarter of flood insurance claims come from locations considered to have low-to-moderate flood risk. Coverage won’t cost as much as it does in higher-risk states. But if a hurricane can hit where you live, it’s smart to check out insurance options.

Because when your home is damaged or destroyed during a storm, whether you call it Sondra or Stanley won’t matter much, will it?

For more information about hurricanes, click here.