Which Natural Disasters Does Homeowners Insurance Cover in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin doesn’t face as many natural disasters as some other states, but it’s crucial to find good homeowners coverage for the ones it does.
Written by Jessie Devine
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Jun 01, 2022
The most common
natural disasters are severe storms and flooding. A good homeowners insurance policy will cover storm damage related to wind, lightning, hail, and snow, but you’ll need additional coverage to protect you from floods.
It can be difficult to figure out exactly what kind and how much homeowners insurance you need. According to a 2020 study, 49.4% of Americans incorrectly calculate how much homeowners insurance coverage they need, potentially ending up underinsured in the event of a natural disaster. 
Though Wisconsin experiences fewer natural disasters than some other states, it’s still important (and often required!) that you purchase homeowners insurance
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What is homeowners insurance—and what does it cover?  

Homeowners insurance is an insurance policy that pays for repairs to your home if it becomes damaged. It can also provide coverage for the contents of your home, loss of use,
, and medical payments. Lower levels of homeowners insurance are limited in their scope, while higher levels provide coverage for a wide range of problems

Levels of homeowners insurance coverage

HO-1: An HO-1 is the most basic type of homeowners insurance policy, and it only covers your primary dwelling. It also only covers a limited number of named perils, making it a plan that won’t qualify as sufficient insurance for most mortgage lenders.
HO-2: The next level is the HO-2 policy. It’s similar to the HO-1, but it protects your personal property in addition to your primary dwelling.
HO-3: The most popular type of homeowners insurance policy is the
HO-3 policy
. These policies cover the main structure of your home, additional structures (any type of outbuilding), and your personal property inside the home. An HO-3 includes loss of use, liability, and medical payments coverage, too.
To protect against most natural disasters, an HO-3 policy is enough. Known as an all-risk or open perils policy, an HO-3 covers any peril except those listed as not covered. You’ll still have to read that perils list, though. At the HO-3 level, your personal property and outbuildings are still only protected against named perils.
HO-5: If you own a luxury home or you want better-than-basic protection, consider an HO-5 policy.  The HO-5 is the gold standard of homeowners insurance, covering your home and your personal belongings against open perils. The downside is the expense—the HO-5 policy provides the highest level of protection, but it’s also the most costly.
Still not sure? Let’s look at all this info another way.
Policy type
What’s covered
Open perils?
Main structure only
Named perils only
Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments
Named perils only
Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments
Main structure - open perils, personal property - listed perils only
Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments

What perils are covered by homeowners insurance?

If any part of your insurance policy includes named perils, you’ll need to read closely to find out what those are. From a standard homeowners insurance policy, you can usually expect coverage for the following
16 named perils
  • Hail and windstorms
  • Lightning
  • Fire and smoke
  • Weight of snow, ice, or sleet (not usually covered by HO-1)
  • Frozen pipes (not usually covered by HO-1)
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Explosion
  • Riot or civil commotion
  • Damage caused by vehicles 
  • Damage caused by aircraft
  • Vandalism 
  • Theft or malicious mischief
  • Falling objects (not usually covered by HO-1)
  • Water overflow or discharge from plumbing (not usually covered by HO-1)
  • Water heater cracking (not usually covered by HO-1)
  • Damage from electrical current (not usually covered by HO-1)
Note what isn’t on that list and what isn’t covered by an HO-1 policy. If you’re in Wisconsin, you may need coverage for damage due to the weight of heavy snowfall on structures and for frozen pipes, and you won’t find it in an HO-1. It’s also important to note that floods are never covered by homeowners insurance.
Key Takeaway The amount of coverage and perils covered by your homeowners insurance depends on the policy type. 

Does home insurance cover natural disasters in Wisconsin? 

Wisconsin ranks 37th out of 50 for highest risk state for natural disasters by Insurance Journal. With a low score like that, it’s tempting to skimp on insurance coverage—but that’s not a good idea.
Wisconsin is still prone to severe rainstorms that cause heavy flooding—and they’re becoming more common. WisContext reported that northwest Wisconsin spent over $50 million on damage to public infrastructure alone due to storms and flooding from 2012 to 2018, and that number continues to rise.
Let’s look at the most common
natural disasters
in Wisconsin to find out what’s covered.


Some parts of Wisconsin receive over 13 feet of snow in a single winter. Snow weighs on average 15 pounds per foot of depth—more if the moisture content is high. While the average roof can hold up to 20 pounds per square foot, it’s important to note that just one inch of ice is equivalent in weight to one foot of snow. 
Does homeowners insurance cover snowstorm damage? Your standard HO-3 usually covers damage caused by the weight of snow and ice on a roof, as well as frozen pipes, and the water damage that can follow if those pipes burst.
As always, read your policy, but if you have an HO-3 or better, you should be set against snowstorms.


Severe storms are the single most common natural disaster in Wisconsin. Storms in Wisconsin are typically characterized by straight-line winds, lightning, and heavy rain.
Straight-line winds can reach tornado-level speeds between 100 and 150 MPH, uprooting trees and damaging homes. They’re usually accompanied by downbursts, which are small areas of rapidly descending rain beneath a thunderstorm. 
Does homeowners insurance cover storm damage? If the damage was caused by wind or lightning, then you’re covered. Unfortunately, most storm damage in Wisconsin comes from flooding after heavy rains, which is not covered.


Flood experts in Wisconsin report that extreme floods are becoming more frequent and more severe. Floods that used to occur once every 50 years are now occurring every 35 years or less—and they’re bringing more water. This is a problem for Wisconsin homeowners because flooding is never covered by homeowners insurance. 
While Wisconsin governments struggle to catch flood infrastructure up to rising water levels, home and landowners are seeing flooded streets, backed-up basements, and waterlogged crops
You will need to buy a separate flood insurance policy to protect your homes. These can be purchased through the
National Flood Insurance Program


Wisconsin sits on the northern edge of Tornado Alley and experiences around 23 tornadoes per year. This puts its rank at number 18 on the US State Tornado Index. Specifically, in the warmer, southern areas of Wisconsin, it’s important to check that your home is covered.
Does homeowners insurance cover tornado damage?: Tornadoes are not usually a specific named peril, but wind, hail, lightning, and falling objects are. If a tornado comes to your community, you’re likely covered.
Key Takeaway Your homeowners insurance should cover you in the event of heavy snowfall, severe storms, and tornadoes, but you’ll need additional coverage to protect against flooding.

How to file a home insurance claim

Nobody wants to have to use an insurance policy—it means something has gone wrong! But if you have homeowners insurance, you should know how to file a claim. If your home or property is damaged due to a Wisconsin natural disaster, here’s how to submit one:
  • Plan ahead. Keep policy proof, receipts for big purchases, and other important documents in a fire- and weather-proof safe.
  • Document your losses. After a disaster, make an inventory of the damage to your home and possessions. Don’t forget to take photos!
  • Determine how much you paid for each item you’re claiming, and write it down. Planning ahead will help with this.
  • Inform your insurance company that you need to submit a claim.
  • Fill out the claim paperwork that your insurer provides. 
  • Get repair estimates from local contractors to help negotiate a fair settlement with your insurance company.
  • Meet with the adjuster to go over the claim. Your insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to review your evidence with you. Be thorough and don’t skip any details.
  • Collect your funds and start rebuilding your home and replacing your property.
Don’t overlook that plan ahead step. In addition to safeguarding important documents and receipts, study the terms of your homeowners insurance policy before a disaster strikes. It’s easier to understand complicated documents and insurance lingo when you’re not in crisis mode.

How to save money on homeowners and car insurance

The best way to save money on insurance is always comparison shopping. According to Lending Tree and the
Insurance Information Institute
, 76% of Americans save money on insurance when they shop around, but only 17% do it!
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