When disaster strikes in the form of lightning, tornadoes, or other freak occurrences, there's really only one thing you can do to help save (or rebuild) your livelihood, instead of just watching it helplessly burn away or get flung to an adjacent county. And that's having homeowners insurance.
But if you don't have coverage? Well, it can get ugly out there. If you don't believe us, just check out these unfortunate situations -- and the hard-won lessons learned as a result.
Your dryer could go haywire and burn down your home
Before leaving for work in February, Celyna Rosiles of San Antonio, TX, popped some clothes in the dryer so they'd be ready to fold once she was home. But that's not what happened. Here's what did: She got a call later in the day from authorities informing her that she had a major house fire on her hands. According to San Antonio News 4, the heat from a dryer ignited lint, which became tinder for a conflagration. Rosiles did not have homeowners insurance, so she had to shell out for repairs herself.
Lesson learned: Over 15,000 house fires are sparked in laundry rooms every year, and these tragedies could be mitigated with insurance. And here's a safety tip: Never leave your home unattended with the dryer on. Got it? This minor time-saving measure is simply not worth the risk.
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A tornado could breeze through the area
In May, a tornado struck Boswell, OK, destroying at least 21 homes. One of those belonged to Jose Rubio, who fled to his neighbor's storm cellar before the twister tore his place apart. He'd lived there for 35 years. "I lost everything -- no insurance, no nothing," Rubio told KXII News. "So I feel sick, but I'm still alive."
Lesson learned: "Many people, even those who live in high-risk areas of the country -- so-called tornado alleys, earthquake-prone areas, hurricane regions -- don't think it will happen to them," explains Loretta Worters, vice president of communications at the Insurance Information Institute. Well guess what? It can. Tornadoes and other freak weather occurrences can hit anyone, anytime, so it's best to arm yourself with insurance in case you're next.
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Lightning could strike -- and once is enough
After lightning stuck a Miami family's condo last year, they were left with nothing because they only thought they had insurance. According to CBS Miami, Maria Zapata's son was home when lightning struck the home, setting the kitchen on fire.
"I was laying down on the phone talking to my girlfriend. It literally knocked me off the bed," Julio Zapata told the news outlet. No one was harmed, but everything inside the home was ruined.
Lesson learned: Granted, the odds of lightning striking your home are rather slim, but if it does, the damage is considerable. Lightning protection systems exist but they're expensive, which is why many experts say that in low-frequency storm areas, comprehensive homeowners insurance is the more budget-friendly option.
"Review your policy to make sure you have the right type and amount of insurance," Worters says.
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You could develop a whole new love for your neighbors
In October 2015, Saunda Williams and her two children were visiting their grandmother's house when they heard a news report about a fire on her block in Muncie, IN. It turned out to be her house -- and the fire ate everything. Williams told the Muncie Star Press that she had no insurance and less than a thousand dollars in the bank. In short, the fire left her family homeless.
But not for long. The community banded together, donating furnishings for a new house. A counselor at a local school started a GoFundMe page. In two months, it raised enough money for a down payment, according to a follow-up article.
Lesson learned: It's good to hear that tight-knit communities and caring neighbors have helped families get back on their feet, and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe are making that easier than ever. Still, there's no guarantee your neighbors will step up and help, which is why homeowners insurance is a better safety net.
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Watch: Is It Smarter to Rent or Buy?