As we approach the peak of hurricane season, catastrophe modeler RMS has warned that storm surge poses a greater risk than hurricane wind.

RMS says its updated North American hurricane model shows there is a 20 percent chance that storm surge loss will be greater than wind loss for any U.S. hurricane that makes landfall. And for the northeast coast of the U.S. the risk is even higher.

Dr. Claire Souch, vice president, model solutions at RMS says:

Our model shows there is a 20 percent chance that storm surge loss will be greater than wind loss for any U.S. hurricane that makes landfall, which rises to almost 40 percent along the northeast coast of the United States – this is a risk the market can no longer afford to ignore.”

RMS’ updated North Atlantic hurricane model suite includes the ability to fully quantify the risk from catastrophic hurricane-driven storm surge.

An earlier paper by RMS on Superstorm Sandy made the point that storm surge loss can drive more insurance loss than hurricane wind.

In the paper RMS noted that while Sandy was not even classified as a hurricane at landfall, it caused a Category 2 storm surge in New York City:

This is not the first time that storm surge has had a dominant effect. It was responsible for more than half of the total loss from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm at landfall, but had a Category 5 equivalent storm surge.”

Recent analysis by CoreLogic estimates that more than 4.2 million U.S. residential properties are exposed to storm-surge risk valued at roughly $1.1 trillion, with more than $658 billion of that risk concentrated in 10 major metro areas.

According to I.I.I. facts and stats on flood insurance, Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest U.S. flood, based on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) payouts as of July 12, 2013.