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The importance of winter weather preparedness

February 26, 2024

Winter weather can be harsh and unforgiving, and individuals and property owners should take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their investments from any associated risks. Whether it’s preventing water damage from frozen pipes, protecting roofs from heavy snow loads, or ensuring that walkways and driveways are clear, taking proactive measures against winter weather can help prevent costly repairs and improve overall safety.

This practice is particularly important, considering weather-related disasters have increased over the past 50 years.1 In 2023, there were 28 weather and climate disasters (up from 18 in 2022)—a historic year in terms of the number of expensive weather disasters and extremes in the U.S.2

Specifically, between 2013 and 2023, seven winter storms caused a total of 47.7 billion dollars in losses. This is double the number of billion-dollar winter storms that occurred the decade prior5.

What’s more, these events haven’t been limited to colder climate areas in recent years. In 2021, a major ice storm hit the southern United States, causing significant infrastructure issues and hundreds of thousands of Texans to be without power.4  As winter storms like these increase in frequency and severity and impact areas that may not be as prepared to handle snow and ice, customers should take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their property.

Winter weather risks

Winter storms can present various property and safety risks for homeowners and residents. All of these risks should be considered to help prevent damage to the home and car and ensure winter safety.


Winter weather risks vary depending on the size and location of a home. Still, most U.S. homeowners live in areas that could be impacted by severe winter weather and should take steps to protect their property from damage.5 In particular, some exposures to watch out for include the following:

  • Frozen pipes—One of the messiest and most costly home repairs is fixing damage from a burst frozen pipe. When water in pipes freezes, it expands and puts pressure on plumbing systems. If the pressure becomes too great, the pipes can crack or burst, causing water damage in the home. This can happen in both metal and plastic pipes. If pipes are not properly insulated, they are more likely to freeze.
  • Roof collapse—Heavy snowfall, ice and freezing rain can wreak havoc on a roof. In some cases, roofs can’t withstand the heavy loads brought on by extreme weather, causing them to collapse. In addition, as snow and ice melt, water damage can occur.
  • Ice dams—During cold winter months, a row of icicles on a home’s eaves may signify a ridge of ice forming at the roof’s edge. This ridge, also known as an ice dam, can result from uneven heat loss from a home, which causes the roof to warm above freezing and melt accumulated snow. An ice dam forms when the snow melts and refreezes before reaching the roof’s edge, causing water to collect behind it. This pool of water can cause extensive damage to the roof, attic, ceilings, walls and contents of a home.
  • Basement water leaks—Water may enter a basement during the winter months for a variety of reasons (e.g., poor sloping, foundation issues or hydrostatic pressure). For homeowners, remediating water issues can be frustrating, stressful and expensive. As such, it’s important to clear snow away from the foundation, inspect and clean gutters to ensure proper water flow, and regularly check the sump pump and the exterior line for wear and tear. Doing so can help keep a basement dry during the winter.

Automobiles: Winter driving

When it comes to automobile safety, slippery road conditions caused by snow and ice can create significant hazards for drivers. Snowy, slushy or icy roads account for over 150,000 auto crashes each year and 1,700 fatalities on average.6 This makes preventive maintenance that focuses on brakes and tires critical.

Furthermore, reduced visibility due to snowstorms and sleet can make it difficult to see other vehicles and obstacles on the road. If drivers are distracted or speeding, winter conditions and the poor visibility that comes with them can increase the odds of an accident.

Winter weather protective measures

While winter can be hazardous for customers, there are several steps they can take to protect themselves, their homes and their vehicles, including the following:

Securing important winter equipment and tools for inclement weather

Preparing for inclement weather is critical and often requires specific equipment and tools. Depending on the property, the following should be considered:7

  • A robust snow shovel—ideally one with an ergonomic handle—is helpful for clearing snow on driveways, sidewalks and the property. For larger areas, a high-quality snow blower can greatly reduce the physical exertion and time spent on snow removal.
  • A supply of ice melt or sand is necessary to ensure safe walkways and steps.
  • A well-maintained generator can be a lifeline in the event of power outages, keeping critical home systems operational.
  • A roof rake can be used to prevent ice dams and snow accumulation, which can cause structural damage.
  • A comprehensive home emergency kit, including flashlights, batteries, blankets and a first-aid kit, should be readily accessible to address any winter-related emergencies.

By equipping themselves with these essential tools, property owners can help mitigate the challenges posed by harsh winter conditions.

Protecting the inside of your home from winter hazards:

  • Check for drafts around windows and doors. Use weather stripping or caulk to seal any leaks and keep the cold air out and the warm air in. Install storm windows or double-pane windows, or alternatively, use interior plastic covers on windows for added thermal protection.
  • Have furnaces, boilers or heating systems serviced by a professional to ensure they’re in good working order.
  • Ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and have fresh batteries, as the risk of house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning increases in winter.
  • Ensure good ventilation and consider using air purifiers to maintain healthy indoor air quality. Keep attics well-ventilated and insulated. Seal air leaks to prevent warm air leakage from plumbing vents, attic hatches and junction boxes.

Protecting the outside of your home from winter hazards:

  • Ensure that walkways and entryways are clear of snow and ice to prevent injuries from slips and falls.
  • Be vigilant for ice dams forming near gutter downspouts, as they can lead to water infiltration into the home. Purchase a long snow rake with an extendible arm to remove snow from roofs. Use chemical de-icers to improve drainage.
  • Regularly clean gutters of leaves and debris to facilitate the free flow of water from melting snow and ice.
  • Inspect and remove any tree branches that are dead, compromised or hazardous. These branches can break under stress, potentially causing harm to homes, vehicles or individuals.

Avoiding frozen pipes:

  • Keep the heat in a house at a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep interior doors open. This allows heat from the rest of the home to spread, keeping pipes warm. Use a programmable thermostat to keep the property at a consistent temperature.
  • Prevent pipes from freezing and bursting by insulating them, particularly those in unheated areas like basements, attics and garages. Use foam insulation sleeves for the best protection. Seal any cracks and holes found near pipes. This can help keep cold air out of the home. Add extra insulation to the pipes. Experts recommend fitting pipes with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves.
  • Pay attention to weather forecasts. During bouts of extreme cold, allow faucets to drip slightly. This can alleviate pressure in the piping system.

Ensuring winter vehicle safety:

  • Check vehicles before getting behind the wheel. Top off the car’s fluids, including antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, gas and oil. Inspect tires for adequate tread. Consider snow tires or chains if multiple adverse winter events are experienced often.
  • Slow down when approaching turns and curves to allow time to prepare for potential icy spots. Avoid abrupt changes in direction and sudden braking to help maintain better control of the vehicle. Additionally, slow down gradually in advance of intersections, as these areas can be slicker than other parts of the road due to the high volume of starting and stopping traffic.
  • Prevent road salt from damaging your car’s paint by washing your car during winter periodically. Apply a fresh coat of wax to avoid corrosion.
  • Clear snow and ice from your car’s hood, roof, head and taillights before driving for better visibility.

Discuss winter weather risks with an insurance agent

Working with an insurance agent is crucial when determining what personal lines policies cover in relation to winter exposures. An insurance agent can assist in understanding the coverage options available and choosing the appropriate policy to help protect your property during the winter months. They can explain the potential risks and hazards that may be unique to certain areas, such as heavy snowfall or freezing temperatures. Additionally, our qualified insurance agents can review existing policies and determine if additional coverage is needed to ensure full protection during winter. This may include coverage for damage caused by ice dams, frozen pipes or other winter-related hazards.