Category Archives: Hurricanes

Atlantic Hurricane Season: The Long View

As the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season officially draws to a close just days after Hurricane Otto became the latest calendar year Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall, the question on everyone’s lips is: are the seasons growing longer?

For if Otto, which struck southern Nicaragua as a Category 2 over Thanksgiving, is the last hurricane of the 2016 season, it will mark the end to the longest hurricane season on record the Atlantic Ocean has seen, according to NOAA.

The 2016 season had an early beginning—well ahead of its June 1 official start—when Hurricane Alex became the first Atlantic hurricane in January since Hurricane Alice in 1955.

At 75 knots, Alex was also the second strongest Atlantic hurricane on record in January, after 1955’s Alice at 80 knots, according to the 2016 season summary by Phil Klotzbach, head of Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project.

Regardless of whether this points to any long-term trend, it does appear that residents in hurricane-prone areas should keep an eye on the tropics year-round, not just in the June 1-November 30 window.

In the end, the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season was somewhat above average. As CSU’s summary outlines:

“The season was characterized by somewhat above-average named storms and major hurricanes, with slightly above-average hurricane numbers.”

The final tally was 15 named storms, including seven hurricanes, of which three were major hurricanes.

Three tropical storms (Bonnie, Colin and Julia) and two hurricanes (Hermine and Matthew) made U.S. landfall this year, according to NOAA.

There were a number of key takeaways, according to CSU, not least that a total of 78.25 named storm days and 26.25 hurricane days occurred in 2016—the most in an individual Atlantic hurricane season since 2012.

The 9.75 major hurricane days that occurred in 2016 are also the most in a single Atlantic hurricane season since 2010.

Florida’s record-long hurricane drought at 3,966 days ended when Hermine made landfall in the Big Bend of Florida on September 2.

Meanwhile, Matthew became the first Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin since Felix (2007).

No major hurricanes made United States landfall in 2016, although Hurricane Matthew came within about 50 miles of breaking this streak, CSU notes:

“The last major hurricane to make U.S. landfall was Wilma (2005), so the U.S. has now gone 11 years without a major hurricane landfall. The U.S. has never had another 11-year period without a major hurricane landfall since records began in 1851.”

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes here.

Hurricane Season Not Over Yet

Tropical storm Otto, earlier on record as the seventh hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, continues to head across the Caribbean toward Nicaragua and Costa Rica for an expected landfall on Thanksgiving Day, possibly as a hurricane.

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The National Hurricane Center has warned that Otto could bring life-threatening flash floods and mudslides to parts of Central America.

Total rainfall of 6 to 12 inches, with isolated amounts of 15 to 20 inches, can be expected across northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua through Thursday.

The combination of a dangerous storm surge and large and destructive waves could raise water levels by as much as 2 to 4 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore flow within the hurricane warning area, the NHC said.

Otto has already been blamed for three fatalities in Panama, according to reports.

As noted over at Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog, Otto was christened on November 21, unusually late for a Caribbean tropical storm. Only 11 Caribbean storms since 1851 have had a later formation date.

A storm of Otto’s expected strength has never made landfall so far south in the Caribbean, and there is no record of any hurricane striking Costa Rica, WunderBlog said.

The Weather Channel also tells us that NOAA has recorded only one tropical storm making landfall in Costa Rica, in any month, either from the eastern Pacific or Caribbean Sea side in their 174-year database, a December 1887 tropical storm.

Check out Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on the Costa Rica insurance market.

It’s worth adding that it’s not unusual for Atlantic basin tropical storms to form in November.

NOAA records indicate there have been 36 Atlantic tropical cyclones of at least tropical storm strength in November from 1950 through 2015, of which 20 became hurricanes, according to the Weather Channel.

Late season storms can also be very destructive. In 1985, Hurricane Kate struck November 20-21 in the Florida Panhandle, causing $77.6 million in insured losses (about $170.9 million in 2015 dollars).

The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends November 30.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes here.

Hurricane Matthew: Early Loss Estimates and More

Early estimates put the insured property loss to U.S. residential and commercial properties from Hurricane Matthew at up to $6 billion.

While this figure covers wind and storm surge damage to about 1.5 million properties in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, CoreLogic’s estimate does not include insured losses related to additional flooding, business interruption or contents.

Parts of North Carolina are expected to remain under dangerous flood risk for at least the next three days, according to the state’s governor Pat McCrory in a report by the Capital Weather Gang blog.

As Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog reminds us, the potentially huge cost of damage caused by inland flooding is still unfolding.

The WunderBlog post suggests:

“A roughly comparable storm, Hurricane Floyd in 1999, produced about $9.5 billion in U.S. economic damage.”

And given the ongoing flooding across the Carolinas and southeast Virginia, that is a fair starting point for Hurricane Matthew, according to Wunderblog’s account of a conversation with Steve Bowen, director and meteorologist at Aon Benfield.

Catastrophe modeler RMS expects the losses to commercial lines will be the primary driver of total flood insured losses, predominately through multi-peril or all-risks policies.

In a blog post, Tom Sabbatelli, RMS hurricane expert noted:

“We expect that the contribution to insured losses by residential claims will be limited because a proportion of the residential property losses will be covered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).”

As of July 31, 2016, there were approximately 417,000 NFIP policies in-force in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Penetration of NFIP coverage varies significantly by distance to the coastline, RMS said. While in coastal regions it can be as high as 25 percent in some areas, inland participation can be less than 1 percent.

“This means that although much of the storm surge-driven coastal flood losses will be covered to some extent by the NFIP, many flood-related losses further inland are expected to be uninsured.”

Ratings agency Fitch has said that the insured loss from Hurricane Matthew “is not expected to present a major capital challenge” to the industry.

Fitch estimates that if the storm results in insured losses in excess of $10 billion, a greater proportion of losses will be borne by reinsurers as opposed to primary companies.

More than 30 fatalities have been attributed to Hurricane Matthew in the U.S. alone, but in Haiti the rising death toll is now more than 1,000.

Hurricane Matthew became post-tropical on Sunday, after heading eastward from the North Carolina coast out to sea.

The Insurance Information Institute offer the following tips for filing an insurance claim in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

 

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.

Hurricane Matthew: Expect Wind, Rain, Storm Surge

Hurricane Matthew, a dangerous Category 3 storm, appears to have the cities along Florida’s east coast in its sights as it heads across the Bahamas today and tomorrow.

On its current track, Hurricane Matthew is expected to be very near the east coast of Florida by Thursday evening, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

States of emergency are in effect for all of Florida, coastal parts of Georgia and the Carolinas, and an evacuation has been ordered in coastal parts of South Carolina

Some slight restrengthening is possible in the next few days, the NHC said.

Currently Hurricane Matthew’s maximum sustained winds are near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km).

Whether or not Hurricane Matthew makes landfall in Florida, clearly the storm poses a serious threat to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, though much depends on the exact track it takes.

Note: the insured value of coastal properties in those four states (FL, GA, SC, NC) totaled $3.4 trillion in 2012, according to AIR Worldwide.

As RMS blog reports:

“The general model consensus suggests that Matthew will slide northward very near, if not scraping along, the Florida coastline as a strong hurricane, making at least tropical storm force winds, high surf, and heavy rain likely for most of the cities along Florida’s East Coast.”

The fact that Hurricane Matthew is moving slowly (currently at around 12 mph) means that the storm is likely to impact the southeast U.S. for a number of days.

With that in mind, here’s a quick review, courtesy of the Insurance Information Institute, of how insurance policies respond to hurricane-related damage caused by wind, rain and storm surge:

—Wind damage from tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes is covered under standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies.

Flood damage resulting from heavy rain, storm surge and hurricanes is excluded under standard policies. Flood coverage is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from some private insurers.

—Damage to cars from tropical storms or hurricanes is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. This includes wind damage, flooding and even falling objects such as tree limbs.

CoreLogic analysis shows that just under 3.9 million homes located along the Atlantic coast of the United States are at risk of hurricane-driven storm surge, with an estimated total reconstruction cost value (RCV) of $953 billion.

The state of Florida, which has the longest coastal area, has the most homes at risk at 2.7 million, and an estimated RCV of $196.1 billion.

Here’s the visual of Hurricane Matthew’s track, via Weather Underground:

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Hurricane Matthew A Major Storm

The fifth Atlantic hurricane and the 13th named storm of the season—Matthew—is now a major Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds and forecasters predict little change in strength during the next 48 hours.

While any interaction with the U.S. coast is days away, and there is still considerable uncertainty in Hurricane Matthew’s modeled track, it’s important to be prepared for this major storm, as the National Hurricane Center (NHC) noted:

“Users are reminded that the average NHC track errors at days 4 and 5 are in the order of 175 and 230 miles, respectively. Therefore, it is too soon to rule out possible hurricane impacts from Matthew in Florida.”

Or, in the words of Wunderblog’s Dr. Jeff Masters:

“NHC has put Miami in the 5-day cone of uncertainty for Matthew, and it appears likely at this point that South Florida will experience at least the fringes of Matthew, with some heavy rains, if not a direct hit.”

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For now forecasters expect Hurricane Matthew to continue heading west through the Caribbean,  and then turn to the north and northwest on Saturday/Sunday, putting the islands of Jamaica, Hispaniola and Cuba in its path.

The potential impact to those islands depends a lot on that turn, as NHC forecasters earlier noted:

“There is a significant spread in where the turn will occur and how fast Matthew will move afterwards.”

A hurricane watch may be required for Jamaica later today, according to the NHC.

Insurers, reinsurers and others will be monitoring Hurricane Matthew closely over the weekend and into next week.

Check out Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on hurricanes here.

 

 

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.

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.

Atlantic Hurricane Season Off to Early Start

Whichever way you slice it, NOAA’s just-released outlook for the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season appears to suggest we’re on track for more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in a while.

NOAA predicts a 70 percent chance of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

It calls for a 45 percent chance of a near-normal season, but there is also a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season. The likelihood of a below-normal season is at 25 percent.

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In the words of Dr Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center:

“This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development.

“However, a near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal.”

To put that in context, the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season was extremely active and tied with 1887, 1995, 2010 and 2011 for having the third-most named storms on record.

Insurers paid out more than $26 billion in hurricane losses that year, including Superstorm Sandy which caused $19 billion in insured property losses.

With Bonnie threatening to develop into a tropical storm over the Memorial Day weekend, the Atlantic could have its second storm before the official start of hurricane season, which starts June 1, as the Insurance Information Institute reminds us here.

Bear in mind that NOAA’s outlook includes Hurricane Alex, a pre-season storm that formed over the far eastern Atlantic in January.

With El Niño dissipating, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts a 70 percent chance that La Niña— which favors more hurricane activity — will be present during the peak months of hurricane season, August through October.

However, current model predictions show uncertainty as to how strong La Niña and its impacts will be.

Check out this earlier post over at Artemis blog about the potential impact of La Niña.

As we’ve said before, regardless of predictions and outlooks it pays to be prepared and this year’s hurricane season is no different.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes.

Hurricane Season: It’s A Wrap

As the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season draws to a close, there’s a lot of talk about how the hurricane forecasters got it right this year, due to a strong El Niño.

Over at the Capital Weather Gang blog, Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane forecasting team, writes that all of the forecasting groups predicted a moderate to strong El Niño event this year, and this turned out to be correct.

Klotzbach observes:

In general, seasonal forecasts did a good job anticipating a below-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2015 due to a strong El Niño event. Most seasonal forecasts predicted a bit less activity than was observed, due to a surprising warming of the tropical Atlantic during the peak of hurricane season this year.”

So what are the key takeaways?

The final tally for the 2015 season was 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

No major hurricanes made U.S. landfall in 2015, which means the U.S. has now gone 10 years without a major hurricane landfall. Hurricane Wilma (2005) was the last, according to CSU’s report on the 2015 season.

Still, it’s important to point out that moisture from Hurricane Joaquin–the first Category 4-5 hurricane to impact the Bahamas during October since 1866–contributed to a weather system that led to catastrophic floods across much of South Carolina resulting in more than $2 billion in total economic losses.

The CSU team of Klotzbach and William Gray also reminds us that while the Atlantic has seen a large increase in major hurricanes during the recent period of 1995-2015 (average 3.4 per year) compared with the prior 25-year period of 1970-1994 (average 1.5 per year), the U.S. has been fortunate that few major hurricanes have made U.S. landfall–except during the two very damaging years of 2004-2005.

Consider this lucky statistic:

The Atlantic basin has had 27 major hurricanes since Wilma, with no major hurricane landfalls. The 20th-century average is that approximately 30 percent of all major hurricanes forming in the Atlantic make U.S. landfall.”

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes here.