Designated catastrophe area

The designated catastrophe area is a portion of the Texas seacoast where the Texas Commissioner of Insurance has found that wind and hail insurance is not reasonably available.

Aerial view of a residential neighborhood

What is a designated catastrophe area?

A designated catastrophe area is a zone in Texas located east of Highway 146 along the Gulf of Mexico coast. It includes 14 tier one counties and a portion of Harris County where homeowners face a greater risk of hail and windstorm damage. The risk there is so great that insurance against these perils is not reasonably available.

The tier one wind zones in the Texas designated catastrophe area regularly experience winds of 100 mph or higher. The tier two counties – including the portion of Harris county included in the designated catastrophe area – can have winds that reach 90 mph.

What Texas counties are in the designated catastrophe area?

The first thing you need to know is whether or not you live in the designated catastrophe area. Here are the 14 Texas counties this area includes:

  • Aransas

  • Brazoria

  • Calhoun

  • Cameron

  • Chambers

  • Galveston

  • Jefferson

  • Kenedy

  • Kleberg

  • Matagorda

  • Nueces

  • Refugio

  • San Patricio

  • Willacy

Homeowners in these counties, plus La Porte, Morgan’s Point, Pasadena, Seabrook, and Shore Acres in Harris County, face an increased risk for windstorms and hail. Unfortunately, their increased risk means many home insurance providers won’t cover the damage hurricanes and hailstorms cause in these areas.

That’s a problem when a hurricane hits, but it can even be a problem beforehand. Lenders generally won’t work with homeowners who don’t have hail and windstorm coverage

Living in the designated catastrophe area in Texas doesn’t mean you can’t find coverage. You may just have a harder time doing so. 

Typically, your first option is applying for insurance through a private insurer. If that doesn’t work, you can try the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). 

The state created TWIA specifically for homes in the designated catastrophe area that couldn’t get insurance from a private insurer. However, TWIA is considered an insurer of last resort. You can only apply with TWIA if you’ve been turned down by at least one private insurance company.

Is windstorm insurance required in Texas? 

Windstorm insurance is not legally required in Texas. However, if you have a mortgage or other loan against your home, maintaining adequate windstorm coverage is likely a requirement. You can review your loan documents or contact your mortgage lender to find out for sure.

Tips for protecting your home against windstorms

Insurance is just the first step in protecting your home against windstorm claims. The next is mitigating your risk. Here are some tips to help you minimize wind damage to your home.

  • Store or secure outdoor furniture. Outdoor seating, tables, decor, and other non-fixed items can become projectiles in high wind, and can cause serious damage if they blow into your home.

  • Install storm shutters. Storm shutters should be installed over all glass doors and windows to keep wind or projectiles from coming through the glass. If you don’t have the budget for shutters, plywood can be helpful, but isn’t usually as effective.

  • Seal any cracks. Check the exterior of your home for cracks in siding, window trim, etc., and take time to fill those cracks so wind and moisture can’t get in.

  • Reinforce doors. Garage doors and double-entry doors can easily be blown in or down in high winds, so make sure these doors have something behind them to make them more resistant to wind.

  • Unplug appliances. In the event of a power outage, power surges can cause damage to your appliances or even cause a fire, so unplugging appliances can be smart if you know a storm is coming.

  • Check your roof. Having your roof inspected and/or replaced with more durable materials can be a good move if you live in an area regularly subjected to hurricane-force winds.

What to do if your home is in a designated catastrophe area

Your new home in Port Aransas may have stunning gulf views, but being that close to the beach does increase your exposure to wind and water damage. To stay protected, you may want to:

  • Check your homeowners insurance. Find out if your policy has windstorm and hail coverage sooner rather than later. Once a hurricane is in or near the Gulf of Mexico, you can’t purchase a policy or change your coverage until it has passed.

  • Understand your deductibles. Homeowners on the coast have a hurricane deductible in addition to the flat standard deductible. In Texas, hurricane deductibles can be 5% or more of your home’s insured value. Find out what your deductible is so you’re not surprised.

  • Assess the value of your possessions. A home inventory can help you decide if you have sufficient coverage. Plus, if you do experience a loss, this documentation can help speed up your claim.

  • Consider flood insurance. Homes in the designated catastrophe area face flood risk, too. Unfortunately, that’s another event home insurance and hurricane coverage exclude.

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