US property insurers brace themselves for damage from collapsing roofs, burst pipes and lost property, while Texas is taking stock of losses from a winter storm that has paralyzed its power grid.
Insurers' losses can amount to billions of dollars, said Moody's analyst Jasper Cooper.
Insurers in Texas, the second largest property insurance market among U.S. states, are used to grappling with historic storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
But this winter storm is unique for its hold over the state. The electricity grid was paralyzed and hundreds of thousands of homes without power for four days.
"You wouldn't be hit by a hurricane across Texas," Cooper said.
Texas insurers expect "hundreds of thousands of claims," said Camille Garcia, spokeswoman for the Insurance Council of Texas.
State Farm, the largest homeowners insurer in Texas according to premiums collected, received "thousands" of claims for frozen pipe damage this week, compared to just 75 in Texas in 2020, spokesman Chris Pilcic said.
Source: 2020 Texas Insurance Department Annual Report.
Hailey Binion in Richardson, Texas, and her family have already called their insurer about broken pipes flooding their kitchen and living room, the 22-year-old student said.
That was after she had spent several nights without power or heat, huddled with her parents, siblings, and dog for warmth.
"It was difficult and it was scary," said Binion.
Hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas will face a fourth day without heating on Thursday, after utilities made some progress in restoring power and the winter storm that paralyzed the power grid left the state.
To date, about 490,000 Texas homes were without power, up from about 2.7 million on Wednesday, according to poweroutage.us, a website that tracks outages.
Commercial property claims are starting to trickle into insurance broker Marsh, said Lori Freedman, claims adviser in Central Texas in Austin.
Most are for broken pipes, although Freedman is waiting for more details on roof damage, which will become apparent when the ice thaws, she said.
The weather and outages have also disrupted supply lines in the states, preventing many businesses from functioning, said Austin attorney Leslie Thorne, who has received 30 calls in the past three days from clients needing advice on coverage.
"It's awful," said Thorne. "We really hope that a lot of power will come back today."
(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in Washington Crossing, Pa. Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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