Microbursts have been a common occurrence throughout the active 2015 storm season, whether they have occurred alone or as part of stormy hurricane remnants moving across parts of the United States. Here are some things homeowners and property owners should know about these damaging weather events.
What Is a Microburst?
A microburst is a type of downburst that only affects a small area. The winds from a microburst extend from the center of the storm over two-and-a-half miles or less, and the event generally only lasts a few minutes. In fact, most microbursts do all of their damage in five minutes or less! Wind speeds can reach 100 miles per hour or more during the storm. Microbursts can form very rapidly in the right conditions, and they are very difficult to predict.
While all microbursts are caused by a violent downdraft in a storm, not all microbursts are the same throughout all the regions of the nation. Although “hybrid” storms are possible, microbursts can essentially be split into two categories:
- “Wet” microbursts. “Wet” microbursts are probably the most familiar form of microbursts, especially in the Midwest and Southeast. These storms usually bring heavy rains and hail along with the high winds.
- “Dry” microbursts. “Dry” microbursts are more common in the Western states, especially in Colorado. While they also happen as air sinks rapidly in a storm, these microbursts do not carry the same moisture. There is usually no accompanying precipitation, and the damages are caused by high winds and blowing debris alone.
While microbursts are downbursts that cover a small area, there are also “macrobursts” that cover areas greater than two-and-a-half miles. Macrobursts can cause devastating damage, and they typically last much longer with higher wind speeds than microbursts.
Is a Microburst a Tornado?
It’s fairly common for people who have been through a microburst to mistake the storm for a tornado. While the damage can look similar, microbursts are not tornados. The main difference between the two kinds of windstorms is the pattern of the winds created by the event. The wind in a microburst travels straight out as the downdraft makes contact with the ground. The wind in a tornado swirls in on itself, creating rotation. After a storm, weather authorities look carefully for signs of rotating or straight-line winds to determine if a storm was a tornado or a microburst.
Common Property Losses in Microbursts
Although a microburst is not a tornado, The National Weather Service states that the winds in a microburst can reach speeds that are similar to EF-1 tornados—and they can be just as, if not more, destructive. Along with being a threat to planes and people caught in the storm, microbursts can cause a wide range of property damage, including:
- Downed trees
- Roof damage
- Broken windows and punctured siding from flying debris
- Destroyed buildings and structures
- Damage to electrical poles and wires
- Damage from accompanying heavy rain and hail
Insurance Claims for Microburst Damage
The good news is that most insurance policies that cover storm damage to a home will cover the damage from a storm that produced a microburst. Ultimately, the damage in a microburst is a combination of wind, rain, and hail—all of which may be covered by the policies you carry. Just like any other storm, you’ll need to look carefully at your homeowners coverage and any additional coverage you’ve chosen. In some cases, property insurance might cover some of the damage associated with the storm, but not others. For example, roof damage and broken windows may be covered, but downed trees and flooding from sewer backup might not. It all depends on what’s included in your specific policy.
Unfortunately, the residents of some neighborhoods hit by microbursts don’t always understand what their policies cover—or what they can do if they feel that their claims have been unfairly underpaid or denied. While some people may have no problems getting their claims paid, other people end up waiting months or years to recover from the storm because of complications with a claim.
Do you have questions? Request one of our free books to start learning more about your rights as a policyholder today, or call us directly at 1-888-614-7730 for immediate assistance with a difficult or denied insurance claim.