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TMCNet:  Winter Storm Brutus: Could The Weather Channel's naming plan cost people money?

[November 12, 2012]

Winter Storm Brutus: Could The Weather Channel's naming plan cost people money?

Nov 09, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- You can add the nation's insurers to those not formally observing The Weather Channel's plan to name winter storms, one industry executive says.

Some property insurance policies carry named-storm clauses, which can escalate an insured's deductible for damage caused by a named storm. In exchange, the policyholder typically pays lower premium amounts than those whose policies don't include such a clause.

After hearing of The Weather Channel's christening of this week's East Coast snowstorm as "Winter Storm Athena," some people feared such names could trigger higher deductibles for homeowners walloped first by the winds, rains and floods of Hurricane Sandy and then by the nor'easter's wind and snow. Could a cable network's decision to name a storm really end up costing people money in damage claims Not so, says Chris Hackett, director of personal lines policy at the Chicago-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

"The vast majority of the (clauses) that I've looked at require that the storm be named by the National Weather Service or the National Hurricane Center and make no reference to storms named by The Weather Channel," Hackett said.

"A lot of the (clauses) define named storms as including hurricanes, tropical depressions and tropical storms. Obviously, there's no mention of winter storms in the endorsements I've been seeing." TWC announced last month that it would assign names to winter storms that meet its criteria: events that involve snow and ice and/or extreme temperatures or wind; that significantly affect travel; and that the network thinks people need to know about. First was Athena on the East Coast. Then came Thursday's naming of Brutus, a winter storm in the Northern Plains. Next will be Caesar, and so forth.

The National Weather Service this week instructed its forecasters to not use The Weather Channel's names, and few news media outlets seem to be recognizing them. Those that cited Athena, for instance, such as The Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle, did so by noting that it's The Weather Channel using the name, not a universal acknowledgment.

Though, Northbrook-based Allstate Insurance has referred to Athena by name on its website, which raises the question, could some name-storm clauses soon be rewritten to include winter storms "It's a possibility," Hackett said. "At this point, I haven't seen any discussion of expanding the named-storm deductible to include winter storms, but that's not to say there aren't some companies out there talking about doing just that." rmanker@tribune.com Twitter: @RobManker ___ (c)2012 Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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