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The importance of winter weather preparedness

February 23, 2023

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

Specifically, between 2012 and 2022, there were six winter storms over 1 billion dollars that caused a total of $36.1 billion in losses.This is double the number of billion-dollar winter storms that occurred the decade prior.

What’s more, these events haven’t been limited to colder climate areas in recent years. In 2021, a winter storm brought record-breaking cold temperatures and snowfall to the Texas region, causing widespread power outages, frozen pipes and other infrastructure issues.3 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.

What’s at risk?

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 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.4 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 freeze, 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 is 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.

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 24% of weather-related car crashes annually, leading to over 1,300 fatalities and 116,800 injuries.5 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.

Protective measures

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

Protecting roofs:

  • Purchase a long snow rake with an extendible arm to remove snow from roofs. Use chemical de-icers to improve drainage.
  • Keep attics well-ventilated and insulated. Seal air leaks to prevent warm air leakage from plumbing vents, attic hatches and junction boxes.
  • Clean leaves and other debris from gutters before the first snow to help prevent ice buildup.

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.
  • 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.

Driving safely:

  • Check a vehicle 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.
  • 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.

Moving forward

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 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.

For more safety information, check out the resources available on Nationwide’s emergency preparedness website.