Category Archives: Flood Insurance

Hurricane Matthew: Storm Surge Risk

Almost 2 million homes in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia are at risk of storm surge damage from Hurricane Matthew with an estimated $405 billion in total reconstruction cost value, according to new analysis from CoreLogic.

Here’s the CoreLogic graphic showing the total number and value of residential properties at risk of storm surge damage from Hurricane Matthew by state:

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The estimates come as Hurricane Matthew, still a major Category 3 storm packing 120 mph winds, continues its northward trek brushing along Florida’s northeast coast Friday, with its eye remaining just offshore.

In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that Matthew is expected to remain a hurricane until it begins to move away from the U.S. on Sunday, though it is forecast to weaken during the next 48 hours.

A hurricane warning now stretches as far as Surf City, North Carolina.

The NHC said:

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge, the tide and large and destructive waves will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.”

And:

“There is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the Florida northeast coast, the Georgia coast, the South Carolina coast, and the North Carolina coast from Sebastian Inlet, Florida, to Cape Fear, North Carolina. There is the possibility of life-threatening inundation during the next 48 hours from north of Cape Fear to Salvo, North Carolina.”

Here’s the 11am NHC prototype storm surge watch/warning graphic, showing locations most at risk for life-threatening inundation from storm surge extend from Florida to North Carolina:

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It’s important to note that flood damage resulting from heavy rain, storm surge and hurricanes is excluded under standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies.

Separate flood coverage is available, however, from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers.

Flood damage to cars would be covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

The NHC has a storm surge inundation map which means anyone living in hurricane-prone coastal areas along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts can now check out and evaluate their own unique risk to storm surge.

Insurance Information Institute experts are available to discuss the insurance implications of Hurricane Matthew.

Check out the I.I.I. facts and statistics on flood insurance.

Hawaii, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina Prepare for Storms

With numerous tropical systems in the Atlantic and two major hurricanes (Madeline and Lester) threatening Hawaii in the Pacific, insurers are keeping a close watch to see how things develop.

Over at Wunderblog, Dr. Jeff Masters observes that the dual scenario of two major hurricanes heading towards Hawaii is unprecedented in hurricane record keeping.

Hurricane Madeline, the closer of the two to Hawaii, intensified rapidly, growing from tropical storm to Category 3 strength in just 24 hours, Dr. Masters notes, and has since intensified to Category 4.

While the forecast models are not conclusive on the exact tracks and intensity of these named storms, it’s clear that both Hurricane Madeline and Hurricane Lester could affect Hawaii with high surf, torrential rain, and potential winds over the next week.

Hawaii’s costliest hurricane, based on insured property losses, was Hurricane Iniki in September 1992. Iniki caused $1.6 billion in damage when it occurred, or $2.7 billion in 2014 dollars, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Check out the I.I.I.’s Hawaii Hurricane Insurance Fact File for more information, including the top writers of homeowners, commercial and auto insurance.

Meanwhile, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, a tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of North Carolina from Cape Lookout to Oregon Inlet for tropical depression eight.

A second system—tropical depression nine— is also being closely watched in the Gulf of Mexico. In its latest public advisory, the National Hurricane Center says the system is set to strengthen and that interests in central and northern Florida, and southeastern Georgia should monitor its progress.

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I.I.I.’s Florida insurance representative Lynne McChristian offers some sound advice on making sure your property insurance is ready for named storms in her latest blog post.

Take a look at I.I.I.’s North Carolina Hurricane Insurance Fact File, Georgia Hurricane Insurance Fact File, and Florida Hurricane Fact File for more information.

Being Prepared for Summertime Flash Floods

Several regions of the country appear to be under flash flood watches and/or warnings as we head into the weekend, underscoring the risk of summertime flooding from slow-moving thunderstorms or excessive rainfall and the need to be prepared.

Weather Underground reports that the threat of flash flooding, and eventually river flooding, will become more widespread from Texas and Louisiana to the Ohio Valley and parts of the Great Lakes in the coming days.

Flash flooding is already reported to be serious in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi as of Friday morning.

Climate scientists believe that the number and volatility of extreme intense precipitation events is on the rise due to the changing climate.

Munich Re describes flash floods as a much underestimated risk:

“While media interest tends to focus on storm surges and river floods, the risk of flooding in places away from rivers and lakes is generally overlooked.”

Flash floods typically occur as independent, localized and random events and unlike river flooding, it’s the intensity rather than the total amount of rainfall that is the concern.

A recent report by FM Global warned that U.S. businesses, depending on their location, should start preparing now for increased, extreme rainfall that a changing climate will likely deliver.

Certain regions of the United States are expected to be prone to more intense precipitation events and a potentially increased risk of flooding, FM Global said. Here’s the graphic:

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Buildings, machinery, data centers, transportation networks, supply chains, people and sales can all be affected by extreme wet conditions, according to the report. When companies have a choice, they should site their facilities in nothing less than 500-year flood zones (where there’s only a 1-in-500 chance of a flood every year), it suggests.

Businesses should also sharpen their focus on water management, diverting water from property, optimizing drainage and protecting water supplies, and considering new weather extremes when managing supply chains.

For any home or business the purchase of flood insurance is key to being prepared for flash flooding, or any kind of flooding event, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies, but available as a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program and some private insurers.

Check out these Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) resources on steps you can take to protect your home or business from flood damage.

June Flood Losses Highlight Insurance Protection Gap

The economic cost of flood losses worldwide in June will exceed $5 billion, though the insured loss portion will be significantly less, according to Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap.

Impact Forecasting, the cat modeling center of Aon Benfield, reports that major June floods highlighted by China and U.S. events, saw the global economic toll mount.

Seasonal “Mei-Yu” monsoon rains led to multiple rounds of significant flooding across central and southern parts of China throughout June, resulting in more than 130 fatalities.

The most damaging floods occurred in the Yangtze River basin as rivers and tributaries overflowed their banks and minimally inundated 200,000 homes. Beyond property damage, there were substantial impacts to the agricultural sector.

Impact Forecasting said:

“Total aggregated economic losses were estimated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs at upwards of CNY29 billion (USD4.4 billion). Given low penetration levels, the insured loss portion was only a small fraction of the overall damage cost.”

Exceptional rainfall in the U.S. state of West Virginia also led to catastrophic flooding in several counties. The federal government declared a disaster after major damage occurred in Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Monroe, Nicholas, Roane, and Summers counties, As many as 5,500 homes and 125 businesses were damaged or destroyed.

“Total economic losses were anticipated to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The insured loss portion of the loss was expected to be less given rather low up-take in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).”

Additional major flood events in the month of June occurred in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Ghana, according to the report.

The gap between economic and insured losses for both major flood events in China and the U.S. illustrates the need for greater insurance penetration around the globe.

A 2015 Swiss Re report estimated the current annual disaster protection gap between insured and total losses at around $153 billion, assuming an average catastrophe loss year.

In absolute terms, the U.S., Japan and China account for more than half that amount, with a combined annual shortfall of $81 billion, Swiss Re said.

A 2015 poll by the Insurance Information Institute found that 14 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy. This percentage has been at about the same level every year since 2009.

Top Metro Areas Have More to Lose When a Hurricane Hits

Latest Atlantic hurricane season forecasts are focused on the numbers – how many storms can we expect? and how many of those will be major hurricanes? NOAA, Colorado State University and Tropical Storm Risk cast their predictions here, here and here.

But as the latest storm surge analysis from CoreLogic indicates, it is where a hurricane hits land that is often a more important factor than the number of storms that may occur during the year.

Why?

More than 6.8 million homes located along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States are at risk of hurricane-driven storm surge, with a total reconstruction cost value (RCV) of just over $1.5 trillion, according to CoreLogic.

But the disproportionate numbers of at-risk homes in just 15 major metropolitan areas means that where the storm makes landfall can make all the difference in terms of property damage and loss of life.

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CoreLogic’s analysis reveals that some 67 percent of the 6.8 million total at-risk homes and 68 percent of the total $1.5 trillion RCV is located within 15 major metropolitan areas.

That’s 4.6 million homes, with total RCV of just over $1 trillion located in urban centers along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts including Miami, New York City, New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia, Charleston and Boston.

The Miami metro area, which includes Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, tops the list with 780,482 at-risk homes and an RCV of $143.9 billion.

By comparison, the New York City metro area has slightly fewer homes with potential storm surge risk at 719,373, but a significantly higher RCV totaling $260.2 billion.

As CoreLogic says:

“History has shown us that a single low-level storm can cause substantial property loss and potential loss of life it it occurs in or near an area of dense development.”

It’s important to note that properties located outside of designated FEMA flood zones may still be at risk for storm surge inundation.

However, only homes located within FEMA-designated high risk flood areas are required to carry flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

A 2015 poll by the Insurance Information Institute found that 14 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy. This percentage has been at about the same level every year since 2009.

U.S. Dominates March Catastrophe Claims

A reminder of the impact of severe thunderstorms is evident in March catastrophe estimates, with seven separate events across the country resulting in several billion dollars of insured losses.

Aon Benfield’s March Global Catastrophe Recap noted that overall economic losses sustained to property, infrastructure and agriculture across the U.S. from the convective storm and flood damage were anticipated to approach $3.5 billion.

Insured losses incurred by public and private insurance entities were tentatively estimated at $2.0 billion. (Presumably, that number includes estimated payouts by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.)

More than 1,000 individual reports of tornadoes, damaging straight-line winds and hail were recorded by the Storm Prediction Centre, while torrential rains also led to significant riverine and flash flooding in the Lower Mississippi River Valley.

Among the hardest-hit states was Texas, Aon Benfield said, where events during consecutive weeks of greater than golf ball-sized hail in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth metro region led to more than 125,000 home and auto claim filings.

The Insurance Council of Texas has put preliminary estimated insured losses in the state at more than $1.1 billion alone.

Here’s the visual on March catastrophe losses in the U.S.:

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Artemis blog mentions that Impact Forecasting estimates for insured or reinsured losses in the U.S. in the first-quarter of 2016 from severe and winter weather now total $4.48 billion.

“Globally the figure is $5.82 billion, again demonstrating the importance of the U.S. property catastrophe insurance and reinsurance market.”

In its must-read facts and statistics on hail, the Insurance Information Institute notes that events involving wind, hail or flood accounted for $21.4 billion in insured catastrophe losses in 2014 dollars from 1994 to 2014 (not including payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program), according to Verisk’s Property Claim Services.

Information about how to reduce hail damage to businesses and homes is available from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety website here and here.

More on Historic South Carolina Floods

The expected $2 billion minimum economic cost of the South Carolina and eastern U.S. floods in early October will place the event as one of the top 10 costliest non-tropical cyclone flood events in the country since 1980.

Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap report, which evaluates the impact of natural disaster events occurring worldwide during October 2015, reveals that already public and private insurers have reported more than $400 million in payouts from the event.

Days of relentless record-setting rainfall caused by a complex atmospheric set-up brought tremendous flooding across much of South Carolina, leaving at least 19 dead, Aon reported.

The event caused considerable flood inundation damage to residential and commercial properties, vehicles, and infrastructure after more than two feet (610 millimeters) of rain fell from October 1 to 5.

Aon noted that the minimum $2 billion in total economic losses from the event includes infrastructure and $300 million in crop damage.

Preliminary reports from insurers suggest roughly $350 million in claims.

However, additional insured losses of at least $100 million are expected via the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the USDA RMA crop insurance program.

A recent  article  by Insurance Journal noted that the potential exposure home insurers in South Carolina face from the early October event is estimated at $18 billion. That’s according to figures by catastrophe modeling firm CoreLogic.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), none of the 10 largest floods as ranked by NFIP payouts occurred in South Carolina (see below).

However, the state was affected by three of the most costly U.S. hurricanes: Hurricanes Charley and Frances in 2004 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

The list  includes events from 1978 to June 30, 2015, as of August 21, 2015.

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Storm Surge Risk Rising Along U.S. Coast

While there’s much focus on storm surge risk in New Orleans as we mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, two new reports highlight the vulnerability of other U.S. coastal cities to storm surge flooding.

An analysis by Karen Clark & Co ranks the U.S. cities most vulnerable to storm surge flooding based on losses to residential, commercial and industrial properties from the 100 year hurricane.

The findings may surprise you.

KCC reveals that some of the cities most vulnerable to storm surge flooding have not been impacted for decades. A few have not experienced a direct hit from a major hurricane in the historical record.

Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida is the metropolitan area most vulnerable to storm surge flooding, according to KCC, with a loss potential of $175 billion.

Four of the top cities (Tampa, Miami, Fort Myers and Sarasota) are in Florida, and the west coast of the state is more vulnerable than the east coast.

In fact, three cities–Tampa, New Orleans and New York–will likely have losses exceeding $100 billion from the 100 year event.

KCC notes that most of the flood damage potential is currently not insured, and that “private flood insurance presents a significant opportunity for insurers that have the right tools for understanding the risk.”

Meanwhile, a new report by catastrophe modeling firm RMS, took a look at six coastal cities in the U.S. to evaluate how losses from storm surge are expected to increase in the next 85 years and found that cities such as Tampa, Miami and New York face greater risk of economic loss from storm surge.

To evaluate risk, RMS compared the chance of each city sustaining at least $15 billion in economic losses from storm surge–the amount of loss that would occur if the same area of New Orleans was flooded today as was flooded in 2005.

Based on its findings, Tampa has a 1-in-80 chance of experiencing at least $15 billion storm surge losses this year, followed by Miami with a 1-in-125 chance and New York with a 1-in-200 chance.

New Orleans still faces significant risk, with a 1-in-440 chance of at least $15 billion in economic losses related to a storm surge event, RMS noted.

Looking ahead to 2100, the likelihood of those cities sustaining this level of losses rises dramatically.

By then both Tampa and Miami will have a 1-in-30 chance of experiencing at least $15 billion in economic losses related to a storm surge event, while in New York the chance increases to 1-in-45 and in New Orleans to 1-in-315.

Here’s the visual on RMS’ findings via its infographic:

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Storm Surge: The Trillion Dollar Risk

More than 6.6 million homes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at risk of hurricane-driven storm surge with a total reconstruction cost value (RCV) of nearly $1.5 trillion.

The latest annual analysis from CoreLogic finds that the Atlantic Coast has more than 3.8 million homes at risk of storm surge in 2015 with a total projected reconstruction cost value of $939 billion, while the Gulf Coast has just under 2.8 million homes at risk and nearly $549 billion in potential exposure.

Which states have the highest total number of properties at risk?

Six states–Florida, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia—account for more than three-quarters of all at-risk homes across the United States. Florida has the highest total number of properties at various risk levels (2.5 million), followed by Louisiana (769,272), New York (464,534), New Jersey (446,148), Texas (441, 304) and Virginia (420,052).

But if you rank the states by the highest total projected reconstruction costs in 2015, the top five are: Florida ($491.1 billion), New York ($177.4 billion), Louisiana ($162.1 billion), New Jersey ($126.8 billion) and Virginia ($91.1 billion).

CoreLogic makes the point that even though Louisiana has the second highest number of homes at risk to storm surge in 2015, only one-quarter are in the extreme or very high storm surge category, due in large part to the upgrade and expansion of levees in the state in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina.

As Dr. Tom Jeffery, senior hazard risk scientist for CoreLogic says:

The number of hurricanes each year is less important than the location of where the next hurricane will come ashore. It only takes one hurricane that pushes storm surge into a major metropolitan area for the damage to tally in the billions of dollars. With new home construction, and any amount of sea-level rise, the number of homes at risk of storm surge damage will continue to increase.”

CoreLogic’s analysis comes as the National Hurricane Center (NHC) debuts experimental storm surge watch and warning graphics for the 2015 hurricane season:

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Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property in the event of a hurricane. While most coastal residents can remain in their homes and stay safe from a storm’s winds, evacuations are generally needed to keep people safe from storm surge, the NHC says.

It’s important to note that many properties located outside designated FEMA flood zones are still at risk for storm surge damage.

As CoreLogic reminds us, homeowners who live outside the FEMA flood zones frequently do not carry flood insurance, given that there is no mandate to do so, and therefore may not be aware of the potential risk storm surge poses to their properties.

Data in the full CoreLogic report can be found here.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on flood insurance here.

NOAA: Nuisance Flooding Increases On All Three U.S. Coasts

A new study from NOAA reminds us that as sea levels rise, it no longer takes a strong storm or hurricane to lead to flooding.

So-called “nuisance flooding” — which results in public inconveniences such as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm drains and compromised infrastructures — has increased on all three U.S. coasts by between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s, according to NOAA.

Eight of the top 10 U.S. cities that have seen an increase in nuisance flooding are on the East Coast.

Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, lead the list with an increase in number of flood days of more than 920 percent since 1960.

New Jersey’s Atlantic City and Sandy Hook also made the top five with an increase in flood days of more than 600 percent, NOAA reports.

Port Isabel, Texas, along the Gulf coast, showed an increase of 547 percent, and nuisance flood days in San Francisco, California, increased by 364 percent.


Dr. William Sweet, oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) and the report’s lead author notes:

Flooding now occurs with high tides in many locations due to climate-related sea level rise, land subsidence and the loss of natural barriers. The effects of rising sea levels along most of the continental U.S. coastline are only going to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades, probably more so than any other climate-change related factor.”

Scientists took data from 45 NOAA water level gauges with long data records around the country and compared that to reports of number of days of nuisance floods.

The study defines nuisance flooding as a daily rise in water level above the minor flooding threshold set locally by NOAA’s National Weather Service, and focused on coastal areas at or below these levels that are especially susceptible to flooding.

NOAA concludes that any acceleration in sea level rise that is predicted to occur this century will further intensify the impact of nuisance flooding over time, and will further reduce the time between flood events.

It also warns that while event frequencies are accelerating at many U.S. East and Gulf coast gauges, many other locations will soon follow regardless of whether there is an acceleration in relative sea level rise.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on flood insurance and climate change and insurance.