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Economy & Business

You Think The Winter Has You Down, Try Being an Insurance Agent

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 WESA

If you walk down any street these days you are likely to hear a Pittsburgher proclaiming, “I am so ready for this winter to be over.”  Snowfall and low temperature records have been set throughout the northeast and Pittsburgh has been averaging well below normal when it comes to thermometer readings and well above when it comes to snow.

All that has led to higher-than-normal insurance claims and Pennsylvania’s largest homeowner’s and auto insurance provider, State Farm, has been feeling the pinch. 

“In just early January we had well over 29,000 winter weather-related claims up and down the east coast with about 2,500 in Pennsylvania,” said State Farm spokesperson Dave Phillips. “Most of those were frozen pipes.”

Depending on where the pipe break occurs and how long it goes undetected a single broken pipe claim can go beyond $15,000 according to Phillips.

State Farm says it has been one issue after the next this year.  The polar vortex brought the first round of frozen pipes because some homeowners were not ready for such a deep freeze.  Then the power outages near Philadelphia caused even the most insulated homes to succumb to broken pipes.

“When the power went you lost your heat… [going] two, three, four days without out heat there is only so much you can do before having a pipe issue,” said Phillips.

The rash of frozen pipe claims has ebbed but the heavy snow has begun to collapse roofs and now Phillips says the claims for water damage are starting to be reported as ice dams form on roofs.

“The ice dam occurs when you start to have a melt and it runs down your roof, it collects in your eaves and refreezes and you see those icicles, then it starts to pool and back up into the roof coming down through shingles and exterior walls,” said Phillips.

The extreme winter has also led to an increase in auto claims.  Phillips says State Farm does not yet have any hard numbers but he knows it has been busy.  It began with cars banging into each other during the snowy conditions, continued to be bad when the melted snow refroze and turned into “black ice,” and now there is a new concern.

“The potholes that are popping up all over the place,” said Phillips.  “there is a claim there that could run you $700 depending on the damage that is done.”

Phillips has one tip to help minimize pothole damage.  He says brake hard before you get to it but once you hit the hole take your foot off the brakes.