Winter Storms


The arrival of the first major winter storm of 2014 just two days into the new year makes this a good time to take stock of the insurance implications.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reports
 that winter storms are historically very expensive and are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes.

From 1993 to 2012, winter storms resulted in about $27.8 billion in insured losses—or $1.4 billion per year, on average, according to Property Claims Service for Verisk Insurance Solutions (see chart below).

Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the I.I.I. and an economist, notes:

The I.I.I. offers additional facts and statistics on winter storms here.

INFLATION-ADJUSTED U.S. INSURED CATASTROPHE LOSSES BY CAUSE OF LOSS, 1993-2012 (1)
(2012 $ billions)

INFLATION-ADJUSTED U.S. INSURED CATASTROPHE LOSSES BY CAUSE OF LOSS, 1993-2012 (1)

(1) Adjusted for inflation through 2012 by ISO using the GDP implicit price deflator. Excludes catastrophes causing direct losses less than $25 million in 1997 dollars. Excludes flood damage covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program.
(2) Excludes snow.
(3) Includes wildland fires.
(4) Includes losses from civil disorders, water damage, utility service disruptions, and any workers compensation catastrophes generating losses in excess of PCS’s threshold after adjusting for inflation.

Source: The Property Claim Services (PCS) unit of ISO, a Verisk Analytics company.

As this blizzard passes, commentators note that arctic conditions are forecast to continue in its wake. Check out Eric Holthaus’ post at the Daily Beast for the latest.

At least four separate winter storms affected the United States during February causing widespread damage, but insured losses resulting from these events were lower than expected, according to Aon Benfield.

In the latest edition of its monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, Aon Benfield observes that flooding and active winter weather continued to produce the largest global catastrophe loss events during February 2013.

The U.S. was particularly impacted by a series of powerful winter storms. Steve Jakubowski, president of Impact Forecasting, notes:

While the damage was widespread, economic losses across the affected U.S. states were within the expected range for events of this magnitude, and, in some cases, insured losses were actually lower than might have been expected.”

The most deadly of the winter storms was a powerful Nor-easter which killed at least 15 people and affected more than 60 million citizens. A state of emergency was declared in six states.

The storm brought heavy snowfall of 40 inches in Connecticut, and coastal flooding in Massachusetts – including the city of Boston. Total economic losses were estimated at roughly $100 million, with only a modest number of insurance claims filed.

The report also makes mention of the meteor explosion above Russia’s Urals region that injured 1,491 people. Aon Benfield says:

The blast, which had an energy equivalent roughly 30 times stronger than an atomic bomb, damaged 100,000 homes, 3,000 buildings, 700 schools and 200 hospitals in more than six Russian cities and parts of two Kazakhstan provinces.

Economic losses were listed at RUB1 billion ($33 million), it adds.

Check out I.I.I. facts+stats on global catastrophes.

A major winter storm, with blizzard conditions, is bearing down on the Northeast and New England, with between one and even up to three feet of snow expected in certain areas Friday night through Saturday.

Here in New Jersey the snow is already falling and blizzard warnings are in effect from here to southern Maine, including the New York City metro area and Long Island, Boston, Hartford, Providence, and Portland, Maine.

The National Weather Service warns that in addition to the snowfall amounts, wind gusts as high as 60-75 mph will have a significant impact on transportation and power. Coastal flooding is also possible from Boston northward.

As CNN reports, the storm is on a trajectory similar to that taken by superstorm Sandy.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) notes that winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes.

From 1992-2011, winter storms resulted in about $28 billion in insured losses, according to ISO. Insured annual U.S. winter storm losses in 2012 totaled $38 million, following losses of over $2 billion in 2011, according to Munich Re.

For more facts and statistics, including the 15 costliest U.S. winters by insured losses click here.

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? The chances of that happening are revealed in an updated map from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

The map shows the climatological probabilities of a white Christmas across the United States.

Based on the most recent 1981-2010 Climate Normals, the Probability of a White Christmas map shows the climatological probability (in percent) that a snow depth of at least 1 inch will be observed on December 25.

Not surprisingly, the highest probabilities are in northern and mountainous areas of the country (see below):

In the words of NCDC:

The actual conditions this year may vary widely from these probabilities because the weather patterns present will determine the snow on the ground or snowfall on Christmas day. These probabilities are useful as a guide only to show where snow on the ground is more likely.”

Time to check out I.I.I. tips on winter proofing your home.

See NCDC’s U.S. Daily Snowfall map to keep track of the snowfall across the U.S. on a daily basis.

A Nor’easter storm brought heavy rains and snow to many parts of the Northeast yesterday.

The National Weather Service defines a nor’easter as a strong low pressure system that affects the Mid Atlantic and New England states and can form over land or over coastal waters.

Nor’easters are most commonly associated with winter storms, but can occur at any time of year.

Here are the Snowpril snow totals so far, courtesy of the Weather Channel.

Over at Wunderblog, Dr. Jeff Masters remarks that we’ve now had two major Nor’easters this season: one in October and one in April:

What’s crazy about this Nor’easter is that it is only the second significant Nor’easter of the 2011-2012 snow season. The other major Nor’easter occurred October 30-31. It’s pretty bizarre to have your only two significant Nor’easters of the season occur in October and April – and none in November, December, January, February and March.”

Dr. Masters adds that word on the street is that NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center will probably end up classifying last year’s October 30-31 Nor’easter as 2011’s 15th billion-dollar weather disaster.

Here’s NOAA’s animation of the storm’s movement April 20-23 from the GOES-13 satellite:

Winter has arrived, at least for the Eastern United States, NOAA’s National Weather Service declared yesterday:

Lake effect and mountain snow is impacting travel across the lower Great Lakes and center Appalachians. Further south, freeze warnings have been issued for all of Florida and along much of the Gulf coast. Temperatures will be at least 20 degrees below average, with brisk north winds making it feel even colder. The temperatures along much of the east coast are below average for this time of year.”

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reports that winter storms are historically very expensive and are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes. From 1991 to 2010, winter storms resulted in about $26 billion in insured losses, according to ISO.

In the first six months of 2011, insured U.S. winter storm losses totaled $1.4 billion, according to Munich Re. That figure does not include losses arising in the second half of the year, for example from the October snowstorm which caused significant damage in the Northeast.

Full year figures should be available in today’s 2011 Natural Catastrophe Year In Review Webinar, jointly presented by Munich Re and the I.I.I.

Insured U.S. winter storm losses in 2010 totaled $2.6 billion, the highest losses from this peril since 2003, as reported by Munich Re.

In its most recent annual winter outlook NOAA gave those of us living in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic equal chances for above-, near-, or below- normal temperatures and precipitation.

Last year’s Groundhog Day blizzard (January 29-February 3, 2011) was among a record 12 weather disasters in 2011 that each caused $1 billion or more in damages, according to NOAA.

This large, sprawling winter storm impacted many central, eastern and northeastern states leaving at least 36 dead and causing insured losses greater than $1 billion.

The city of Chicago was brought to a virtual standstill as up to 2 feet of snow fell in the area.

As a result of that blizzard the city is now taking a more hi-tech approach in its snow-response. The New York Times reports that a new city web site ChicagoShovels.org includes among other things a snowplow tracker that maps Chicago’s approximately 300 snowplows making their way in real time through the city.

If like me one of the first news headlines you saw this morning was about the life-threatening storm of epic magnitude bearing down on Alaska, you probably wanted to know more, so here’s the low-down.

According to the National Weather Service, a major Bering Sea Storm is bearing down on Western Alaska with a mix of strong winds, high seas, blizzard conditions, major coastal flooding, and the potential to cause widespread damage.

This is expected to be one of the most severe Bering Sea storms on record, forecast to have sustained winds of 80 mph over an area the size of Colorado and produce storm surge effects on the Alaskan coast 8 to 10 feet above normal water levels. The Alaskan city of Nome is in its path.

In a special weather statement issued yesterday the NWS Fairbanks office says:

A powerful and extremely dangerous storm of near record or record magnitude is bearing down on the west coast of Alaska. At 9 AM this morning the storm center was located about 600 miles southwest of St Lawrence Island. The storm is forecast to move rapidly northeast today and tonight with the center moving across the Chukotsk Peninsula tonight.”

The Weather Matrix blog at Accuweather.com cites NWS saying that this storm is comparable to the November 11-12, 1974, Bering Sea storm that remains the most severe in Nome in 113 years of record keeping.

Major differences between the 1974 storm and this storm include the fact that tides were much greater in the 1974 storm. However, sea ice extent is currently much lower than it was in 1974, thus providing no protection along the coast and greater fetch, the NWS says.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on U.S. catastrophes.

As clean-up continues from last weekend’s early snowstorm in the Northeast, insured losses already have exceeded $25 million, making this event a catastrophe.

PC360 reports that Verisk Analytics’ Property Claims Service has declared the storm as a catastrophe with insured losses exceeding $25 million in six states: Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Other areas are to be determined.

PC360 notes that claims from winter storms typically come in slowly since damage is normally seen after snow and ice melts, and after the lights come back on.

At one point about 4 million homes and businesses were without power as a result of the storm and electricity at some affected homes and businesses may be out until the end of the week. For this reason, PCS says it does not have a loss estimate available.”

Winter storms are historically very expensive and are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes. From 1991 to 2010, winter storms resulted in about $26 billion in insured losses, or more than $1 billion a year on average, according to ISO.

Insured U.S. winter storm losses in 2010 totaled $2.6 billion, the highest losses from this peril since 2003, according to a January 2011 analysis by Munich Re.