Britain has been battered by three storms in less than a week, leaving buildings destroyed and 1.4 million homes with no electricity.
The unprecedented weather conditions have seen the public battling Storm Dudley, Storm Eunice and Storm Franklin in quick succession. The European windstorm season has been blamed for the powerful storms that have brought the nation to its knees.
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Storms’ wrecking spree
The wrecking spree started on Wednesday 17th February, when Storm Dudley swept across the country, causing devastation with 80 mph gusts of wind in many regions. Thousands of people in North Yorkshire, northeast England, Cumbria and Lancashire were left without power.
Just as the clean-up operation was underway, Storm Eunice (labelled the worst storm in 30 years) swept across Britain, starting on Friday 19th February. The Met Office issued a rare amber weather warning across the whole of Southern England, the Midlands and Wales in anticipation of Storm Eunice’s ferocity. This was upgraded to a virtually unheard of red weather warning for parts of South Wales, southwest England, London and much of southeast England.
Storm Eunice set a record for England’s fastest recorded wind gust in history, with 122 mph at The Needles, Isle of Wight, as it ripped through the UK throughout 18th February and into 19th February.
Storm damage costs millions
The estimated damage caused by Eunice in the UK currently stands at £360 million for homes and businesses, although this is still being assessed. Tragically, three fatalities were caused by the storm. House roofs were severely damaged or blown off altogether in some areas, while trees were uprooted, causing further damage as they crashed into buildings.
People living on the coasts of Cornwall, Somerset and Devon were issued with a “danger to life” red warning. London Fire Brigade declared Storm Eunice a major incident after receiving 1,958 calls (three times the normal amount) on Friday alone.
The horrific trail of destruction included severe damage to the O2 Arena in London, where large sections of fabric roofing were ripped away; the spire of the Church of St Thomas, at Wells in Somerset, was blown off; and the famous Cartwheeling Boys statue in Reading was reduced to rubble; the bandstand at the De La Warr Pavilion on Bexhill-on-Sea seafront was destroyed; the roof of Preston Railway Station suffered structural damage; and cladding on a Leeds tower block was torn off; the roof was ripped off a block of flats in Gosport; and cladding on Evenlode Tower at Blackbird Leys in Oxford was loosened.
As soon as the wind left Storm Eunice’s sails on Saturday 19th March, the Met Office issued a new weather warning. Gale force winds predicted for Sunday 20th February were officially upgraded to the third storm in less than a week, Storm Franklin.
Yellow warnings for wind and rain were issued in various parts of the UK on Sunday and Monday. Although not as powerful as Storm Eunice, Storm Franklin has disrupted efforts to clean up and hindered power companies’ attempts to reconnect the 200,000 homes still without electricity since Eunice.
Another storm may be on the way: strong winds in many parts of the country are possible on Thursday 24th February. The weather front may be upgraded to Storm Gladys, should they become more severe. The Met Office says it is too early to tell yet.
Are you insured against storms?
The extensive damage being caused by wind and flooding UK-wide leaves householders and business owners trying to deal with the aftermath in the midst of more bad weather looming. Insurance companies are bracing themselves for the influx of claims – they can differ considerably when it comes to pay-outs. Some people are left wondering if their insurance company will offer them anything at all.
Building insurance policies will usually cover storm damage – but some companies have argued regarding what constitutes a storm. The Financial Ombudsman Service states disputes such as these are among the main complaints it deals with.
According to the Association of British Insurers, a storm is defined as having wind speeds with gusts of at least 55 mph; rainfall of at least 25 mm per hour; snow at least 30 cm deep in 24 hours; and hail that breaks glass and damages hard surfaces.
While these are the general criteria, individual insurers may have their own rules and it’s important to read the small print before signing up for a policy. You can’t officially get “act of God” insurance cover to ensure a pay-out for all natural disasters.
However, you shouldn’t need it, according to the experts, as long as you have read and understood your policy properly. Your home insurance policy should detail your cover for natural disasters such as storms, floods and fires. This should be clearly written into the policy, so you know exactly what is and isn’t covered.
What if you’re not covered?
If you’re unlucky enough to find you’re not covered for storm damage, what are your next steps? Unfortunately, you will need to raise the money yourself to pay for any damage to your property. Some people may be able to put this on a credit card or take out a loan. However, these methods can take time.
People who need money urgently for an emergency such as a house repair may look to secure a logbook loan on their vehicle. This means your vehicle is surety for the loan, but you can continue driving it while you pay it off.
A responsible lender will assess each application to ensure you are able to make the repayments. It can be a way of obtaining money quickly to carry out urgent storm damage repairs without going through an insurance company.
If you’ve been caught out without insurance by the recent flurry of storms, it’s important to look into the relevant cover now, to make sure you don’t suffer the same problem in future. Afterall, experts are predicting that these sorts of weather conditions will likely become more frequent.