You Should Care About Named Storms

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Recently, The Weather Channel announced that as of the 2012-2013 season, it will begin naming winter storm systems.  The new naming system they’ve outlined is very similar to the one most of us are already familiar with — the procedure by which tropical storms and hurricanes are named each year.  Because that naming system has resulted in greater awareness and better tracking of summer storms, which translates to better preparation by concerned citizens, TWC has decided that naming winter storm systems in a similar fashion may yield public safety dividends as well.

It makes sense; after all, when a really big one hits, the public has a tendency to name things anyway (remember “Snowmageddon” and “Snowtober?”).  And certainly, there’s an aspect of seriousness lent to a named storm.  We’re all more likely to perk up and head out for provisions if we hear that “Blizzard Bartholomew” is headed our way, rather than “There’s a big band of snow on the radar.”  Naming things, even weather events, makes them real.

Of course, naming winter storms will also make them “real” in the eyes of travel insurance companies.  Far from being just an interesting new wrinkle in the forecasts for this year, the news about named winter storm systems is a significant development travelers need to understand.  In the past, generally, snow has been…snow.  But now, snow in any potentially concerning quantity will become a bona fide, named, and therefore “known peril.”

Those who are familiar with our many posts on the topic of hurricanes and other natural disasters know where this is going: A known peril is something which, in the eyes of your travel insurance company, could be foreseen before you bought your policy and is therefore not going to be covered.  Our favorite analogy is that if there’s already water rising in your basement, it’s a bit too late to buy flood insurance.  In the travel insurance industry, a named storm — whether summer OR winter, now — is like water in your basement.

Of course, the good news is that even though naming winter storms will surely put a more defined set of parameters around what’s covered under your travel insurance policy and what’s not, the truth is that the change likely won’t result in much of a noticeable difference to most travelers.  As with hurricane season, we simply advise you to purchase your travel insurance as soon after you’ve booked your trip as possible, so that you’ll be eligible for coverage against the effects of any storms that are identified by The Weather Channel after you’ve bought your insurance.  Also, it’s important to note that even if there is a named storm brewing before you’ve got your insurance, you can still buy a policy that will cover you for quite a number of other things; medical benefits, trip interruption and cancellation not related to the previously identified storm, baggage loss and delay, and other valuable coverages will still be available, as well as coverage for the effects of any ADDITIONAL winter storms that might be named between the time your insurance goes into effect and the time you depart for your trip.

The bottom line is that, while this change to the way we forecast and track winter storms is certainly notable for a number of reasons, it’s ultimately just a reminder to all the travelers and potential travelers out there who may be planning winter getaways that buying insurance to protect your trip is not something to put off until the last minute.  A little advance preparation this winter could really save everyone a lot of hassle and headaches.

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