Tag Archives: Flood Insurance

Flooding Events May Shift Prevention Strategies

Hurricane season has yet to begin and already record-setting flooding in parts of the central United States will likely become the country’s sixth billion-dollar disaster event of 2017.

While Missouri and Arkansas have been hit the hardest, recent flooding in the central U.S. has been widespread and it will likely take weeks before the full extent of flood damages is known.

So far, 2017 has seen five billion-dollar disaster events, including one flooding event, one freeze event, and 3 severe storm events, according to NOAA.

KSGF.com: “This year is off to a quick start for the number of billion-dollar weather disasters, similar to 2016 and 2011, which each had 15 and 16 disasters, respectively.”

Climate Central reports that many communities across the U.S. are not prepared for massive rain events and living behind a levee is not an absolute guarantee of protection.

“The growing realization of the lingering risk from levees is causing some rethinking of flood protection strategies in riverfront communities. This can include simply setting levees back from the risk and installing parkland that is intended to flood and provide rain-swollen rivers some breathing space, as well as preventing development in flood-prone areas.”

Last week’s breach of the local levee system in Pocahontas, Arkansas is a good example. Check out these aerial pics via the Capital Weather Gang.

Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. However, flood coverage is available in the form of a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers.

I.I.I. facts and statistics on flood insurance has additional information.

What Does Private Market Flood Insurance Look Like?

In his second post from the Cat Risk Management 2017 conference, Insurance Information Institute chief actuary James Lynch discusses private market flood insurance options:

Florida has opened its market to private flood insurance, and there has been some activity in that area. Most plans have been National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) clones in that they mimic how the NFIP prices risk but introduce a lot of underwriting rules to try to avoid problem risks.

Other than mimicking the NFIP program, there are two alternative ways to price risk:

    • Develop a refined rating plan, which resembles (to me at least) a traditional classification plan. The company develops a base rate then credits and debits a risk based on factors like:
      • Elevation.
      • Relative elevation (whether a risk is higher or lower than the areas that immediately surround it).
      • Distance to coast.
      • Distance to river.
    • Use a sophisticated catastrophe model to price each risk individually. That approach is more precise, but it could be more difficult to pass regulatory approval.  (The model might be too much of a black box.) It could also be harder for agents to understand the model and explain it to clients.

Much of the industry long-term seems interested in how computer models can price flood risk, but most people recognize the challenges. A big one is how to build in the precision necessary.

Figuring out how far a property is from a river is easy. But it is hard to use Big Data techniques to determine something as simple as whether a property has a basement; let alone knowing the elevation of the lowest vulnerable point in a property. (Hint: It’s probably not the front threshold.)

Private Market Looks Closely At Flood Insurance

Almost all private insurers have shunned covering flood since the 1950s, but that could be changing fast, writes Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch:

At the Cat Risk Management 2017 conference I attended earlier this month, flood was the hottest topic. Here’s why:

  • Insurers have become increasingly comfortable with using sophisticated models to underwrite insurance risk, and modeling firms are getting better at predicting flood risk.
  • The federal government, which insures the vast majority of flood risk, is looking for ways to share the risk with private industry. Key reasons:
    • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) owes the Treasury more than $20 billion (thanks to flooding from Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy). It has no practical way to pay that back, and the government has made it clear that it doesn’t want to fund more losses. So the NFIP is purchasing private reinsurance. More on that below.
    • The number of people who lack flood insurance is distressingly high. I.I.I. surveys show that only about 12 percent of Americans have flood insurance. The government wants people to be protected, and encouraging a private flood insurance market could do that.

Here are some of my notes from #catrisk17 on flood insurance:

  • The NFIP reinsurance deal (effective January 1, 2017) means that reinsurance would reimburse NFIP for 26 percent of the losses from an event where losses exceed $4 billion. The maximum recovery is $1.046 billion, and the cost, according to my notes, is $150 million. (If you work in reinsurance it may be easier to think of the pricing this way: NFIP cedes 26 percent of the $4 billion excess $4 billion occurrence layer at a 14.3 percent rate on line.) There have only been a couple of floods that big in NFIP history (Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy), so the cover is in place primarily to protect against storm surge. However, it would cover other major types of flood as well.
  • A significant obstacle to modeling flood risk is the fact that much of the most important data (underwriting and claims information) is in the federal government’s hands. The government wants to share the data responsibly, but its hands are tied by federal rules on sharing data about individuals. The rules are driven both by privacy concerns and cyber security laws. The government will likely be developing a certification process so that professionals could qualify to have access to the data on a limited basis.
  • A live poll found that flood modeling was the most important topic at the conference, cited by 56 percent of respondents – outpacing severe convective (thunder) storm models, cyber insurance models or terrorism models.

Growing Insurance Resilience to Disasters

Latest estimates from Aon Benfield that just 50 percent of the U.S. losses from Hurricane Matthew are covered by public and private insurance renews the spotlight on the growing risk protection gap and disaster resilience.

In its latest Global Catastrophe Recap report, Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting unit expected total economic losses from Matthew would range up to a high of $10 billion. Public and private insurance losses were considerably less, estimated as high as $5 billion.

The reason for this is that a large portion of the inland flood loss in North Carolina went uninsured due to low take-up of the federally-backed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Aon said.

A post over at Artemis blog reports:

“Once again this demonstrates the insurance and reinsurance protection gap is not simply an emerging market issue, rather it is evident in perhaps the most mature property catastrophe insurance market in the world in the United States.”

Indeed, Swiss Re sigma has said the amount of financial loss caused by catastrophes not covered by insurance is growing.

This so-called global insurance protection or funding gap totaled $75 billion in 2014, according to Swiss Re.

A recent issue brief by Wharton Risk Center co-director Howard Kunreuther pointed to evidence showing that consumers tend to purchase too little insurance or purchase it too late.

As a result, it said, taxpayers wind up bearing substantial burdens for paying restoration costs from extreme events. The 2005 and 2012 hurricane seasons alone cost taxpayers nearly $150 billion.

The Wharton brief suggests there is much that can be done to better facilitate the role that insurance can play in addressing losses from extreme events, both natural and man-made.

To better meet its objectives, insurance must embody two guiding principles, first premiums must accurately reflect risk and secondly, to ensure equity and affordability, special financial assistance should be made available to homeowners who would no longer be able to afford their premiums.

More information on the protection gap problem in this Insurance Information Institute report Underinsurance of Property Risks: Closing the Gap.

I.I.I. facts and statistics on flood insurance are available 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:

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-11-14-21-am

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.

Louisiana Flooding Underscores Insurance Need

The ongoing flooding in Louisiana is being described as the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy of 2012.

Latest reports indicate that at least 11 are confirmed dead and more than 30,000 have been rescued. An estimated 40,000 homes have sustained flood damage statewide, but local reports put that figure higher.

Some 20 Louisiana parishes have now received a federal disaster declaration.

Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies, but available as a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and some private insurers.

So, what would a superstorm Sandy-type event look like in terms of NFIP payouts?

According to the I.I.I., superstorm Sandy was the second costliest U.S. flood, based on NFIP payouts as of June 2016.

“Superstorm Sandy which occurred in October 2012, resulted in $8.2 billion in NFIP payouts as of June 2016, second only to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina with $16.3 billion in payouts.”

There were 130,214 NFIP claims from superstorm Sandy as of June 2016. The average paid loss was $63,352, compared with 167,984 claims from Katrina, with an average paid loss of $97,142.

All these figures are preliminary as claims are still being processed, the I.I.I. notes.

While flood insurance penetration rates are reported to be relatively low in the affected parishes, time will tell how the Louisiana flood stacks up among major U.S. flood disasters.

In 2015 and 2016 the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia have experienced devastating rainfall-induced flooding, resulting in billions of dollars in economic losses.

Here’s a look at the top 10 most significant flood events by NFIP payouts:

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A massive relief operation mounted by the American Red Cross is expected to cost at least $30 million and that number may grow as the scope and magnitude of the devastation in Louisiana becomes clearer.

Check out this I.I.I. issues update on flood insurance for more background on the topic.

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.