Most Americans believe  severely damaging weather is becoming more frequent in the U.S. today, but may overestimate their preparedness to deal with the damage, shows a study surveying the public on what it perceives as their most relevant risks.  

“Nearly two out of every three American homes (59 percent) are underinsured as homeowners and, on average, have only enough insurance to pay for 78 percent of costs to replace or rebuild their homes,” says Pat Gee, senior vice president of catastrophe response at Travelers, citing Marshall & Swift/Boeckh LLC, a leading provider of building replacement cost data.

In a survey of 806 adults polled by Travelers, 70 percent of respondents believe severely damaging weather is becoming more frequent across the U.S., and 30 percent say this is causing a greater likelihood of damage to property in their area.

People in every region of the U.S. felt severe weather is increasing locally: 21 percent of respondents in the West, 30 percent in the Midwest, 39 percent in the South, and 36 percent in the Northeast.

When it came to concern about extreme natural disasters in their overall region, Southerners are sounding the loudest call (55 percent) followed by Midwesterners (40 percent) and those living in the Northeast (39 percent) and the West (34 percent).

The concerned individuals were concentrated in tornado alley, hurricane zones, blizzard states, and regions with risk of brush fires.

In some cases, those fears can be constructive: Nearly 90 percent of respondents feel their home is properly insured against natural disasters, while 93 report the same for their automobile coverage. And 57 percent of people say that they store extra supplies in case of severe weather while half have a disaster plan in place for their family.

However, buying flood insurance to cover damage not included in homeowner policies is one of the steps consumers take least frequently to prepare for catastrophes (22 percent).

Travelers reports 63 percent of Americans believe the world is becoming a risky place in all aspects: the top risks of 2013, as ranked by consumers, are: finance, identity theft, serious health problems, personal safety and extreme weather.

Gee says that “many of today’s most worrisome risks did not exist half a generation ago,” including the entirely new risk of distracted driving. However, insurers may need to give their clients a wake-up call about realistically managing concerns over personal safety. Only 31 percent of consumer respondents worry that their own use of a mobile device while driving could cause an accident.