Updated June 26, 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes
Florida has been struck by 120 hurricanes as of March 2021.
As summer heats up, the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, is in full swing. These major storms can cause incredible damage. In fact, hurricanes caused nearly $1 trillion in damage between 1980 and 2019, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA )’s National Hurricane Center. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that impacted states suffer $28 billion a year in hurricane-related damage costs.
If you live on the East Coast, you know hurricanes are a fairly regular occurrence. Make sure your home is protected against potential storm damage by insuring it with Insurify, a simple research tool that helps you compare home insurance providers.
What makes a hurricane different from other storms?
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone. It forms when water warms up to around 80 degrees near the equator. The water gets warmer in the Northern Hemisphere around spring and early summer and turns into moist air and rises to create a low-pressure system. As the difference between high-pressure and low-pressure systems increases, winds pick up around the center, where the lowest pressure is. This forms a counterclockwise movement of wind that gains size and momentum as it moves through more warm water. These cyclone winds officially become a hurricane once they reach a speed of 74 miles per hour.
Many people think high winds are the most dangerous component of a hurricane, but it’s actually storm surge. Storm surge is water that is pushed onto land by the tropical storm winds, and a major hurricane can create a storm surge of 20 feet or higher. This can cause severe flooding and extreme property damage and is also frequently responsible for hurricane-related fatalities.
Storm surge is also a major cause of uninsured property loss. This is because many people who live in hurricane-prone areas don’t have flood insurance. Why? They incorrectly assume that their home insurance will cover them, when in fact, most home insurance specifically excludes flood damage. That’s why people who live on the Gulf or Atlantic Coasts need to shop for flood insurance—it can make the difference between damage to your home being covered or not.
These Atlantic and Gulf Coast states have the most hurricanes, according to NOAA.
About 120 hurricanes have struck Florida since record-keeping began in 1851, and 37 were a Category 3 or higher on the Saffir -Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which classifies hurricanes into five categories depending on the intensity of their winds. The last Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Florida was Hurricane Michael in 2018. Florida ’s northwest section has been hit 66 times, more than any other area in the state.
The Sunshine State is known for severe hurricane damage. In 2017, Hurricane Irma, another Category 5 storm, caused catastrophic damage across the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. Category 5 storm Hurricane Andrew is the most destructive hurricane to ever hit Florida in terms of structural damage and was also the costliest in financial terms until Irma surpassed it.
Miami is the top city for hurricanes in the country, as it has a roughly 16 percent chance of experiencing a hurricane in any given year. A hurricane passes within 50 miles of Miami every six to eight years on average.
The Lone Star State has been hit by 65 hurricanes since 1851, with nearly a third registering as a Category 3 or higher. Hurricane Laura was a notable Category 4 hurricane that struck Texas in August 2020.
Further up the Atlantic Coast, North Carolina has been hit with 57 hurricanes since 1851, though only seven were Category 3 or higher. The last hurricane to hit the state was Hurricane Dorian.
Louisiana has suffered some historically devastating hurricanes, such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Laura, but the Pelican State actually sees far fewer hurricanes than Texas. There have been 56 hurricanes in Louisiana since 1851.
The Palmetto State has suffered 30 hurricanes since record-keeping began. It was impacted by wind and rain from Hurricane Dorian in 2019, although it didn’t make landfall.
Records show 24 hurricanes have struck Alabama since 1851, but only three were at least a Category 3 .
Since 1851, 22 hurricanes have hit Georgia. The last one was Hurricane Michael in 2018.
Just 19 hurricanes have hit Mississippi since record-keeping started, and eight were Category 3 or higher. One of them was Hurricane Laura in August 2020. Areas that Laura affected—mainly Gulf Coast states—were hit again six weeks later by Hurricane Delta.
New York is proof that you don’t have to live in the Southeast to be affected by hurricanes. New York has been struck by 15 hurricanes, including three that were Category 3 or higher, since 1851. One of the most noteworthy is Hurricane Sandy, which didn’t make landfall but still caused $20 billion in damages and killed nearly 50 people in 2012. Sandy had “weakened” to a tropical storm by the time it got to Maryland, New Jersey, and New York but still caused catastrophic destruction despite the lack of direct hits by hurricane-force winds.
Only one of the 12 hurricanes to have hit Massachusetts since 1851 was a Category 3 or higher. The state was affected by the remnants of Hurricanes Michael and Florence in 2018, but landfall hasn’t occurred in Massachusetts in nearly 30 years.
Why do these states suffer the brunt of hurricane damage? Because hurricanes need certain weather conditions to exist. The two most significant factors are warmth and humidity, weather conditions that coastal states are prone to.
Home insurance is complicated when it comes to hurricanes. Homeowners insurance covers your home and personal property from wind damage. However, the storm surge and flooding that come after a hurricane are not covered. That means that anyone who lives in a state vulnerable to hurricanes needs to purchase flood insurance.
It’s also possible that your home insurance carrier will treat hurricanes differently from other types of damage. People in coastal communities often find that insurers exclude wind damage from their policy, even though it’s included in standard policies in other areas. If this is the case for you, you need to buy separate windstorm insurance to cover property damage from hurricane-strength winds.
Some insurers in high-risk areas also require a separate deductible for hurricane damage. Not sure whether you have a hurricane deductible? Check your declarations page.
The Galveston hurricane of 1900 is the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. It killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. The deadliest recent hurricane was Hurricane Maria, which killed 2,981 people.
Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey are tied for the costliest Atlantic tropical cyclone on record. They both caused roughly $125 billion in property damage.
There are two reasons why the West Coast doesn’t suffer from hurricanes. First, hurricanes form in places where winds tend to blow from east to west, which means that storms tend to spin toward Asia in the Pacific. The other reason is water temperatures. The ocean temperature in the Pacific is usually under 75°F, so it creates less fuel for hurricanes than places like the equator and the Gulf of Mexico.
Smart homeowners plan ahead for hurricane season. Review your policy today and make sure it covers you against both windstorms and flooding, two typical consequences of hurricanes. If it doesn’t, shop for a new policy with easy-to-use tools like Insurify.
Tanveen Vohra is an editorial manager at Insurify specializing in writing about property and casualty insurance. Through her work, Tanveen helps consumers better understand the components of their insurance policies so they can make smarter purchase decisions.
Tanveen's work has been cited by CNBC , Fox Business, Business Insider, Fortune, and Market Watch, among others.Learn More