Tag Archives: Tornadoes

Hail Claims Add Up During April

We’re reading about the economic and insurance impact of severe thunderstorms in the United States in April 2015, as reported by Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap report.

Five separate thunderstorm events in central and eastern parts of the U.S. caused expected insured losses of $2 billion, including more than $750 million from one event alone.

What was the $750 million event?

A widespread multi-day severe weather outbreak that hit central and eastern parts of the U.S. from April 7-10, leaving at least 3 dead and dozens injured.

Major damage was noted across the Plains, Midwest and the Mississippi Valley following 25 confirmed tornado touchdowns, grapefruit-sized hail, damaging straight-line winds, and flooding rains, according to Aon.

The April 9 EF4 tornado that devastated the communities of Fairdale and Rochelle, Illinois, is part of this event.

Total economic losses were estimated at $1 billion, while insurers put losses beyond $750 million.

Interestingly, Aon notes that much of the insured losses in this severe weather event were driven by claims resulting from hail.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) has some useful facts and statistics on hail here.

It cites ISO figures that indicate events involving wind, hail or flood accounted for $16.1 billion in insured catastrophe losses in 2013 dollars from 1994 to 2013 (not including payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program).

The I.I.I. also notes that there were 5,536 major hail storms in 2014, per statistics culled from NOAA’s Severe Storm database. Nebraska had the largest number of severe hail events in 2014, followed by Texas, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

Over the 14 years from 2000 to 2013, U.S. insurers paid almost 9 million claims for hail losses, totaling more than $54 billion, according to a recent report by Verisk Insurance Solutions. That’s a hail of an impact.

A Slow Start Does Not A Season Make

While certain parts of the country hold tornado drills and others test tornado preparedness systems, weather experts are pondering the slow start to tornado season.

Capital Weather Gang cites a weather.com report that not a single tornado has been reported to the National Weather Service in March, typically the first month of severe weather season in the Plains and Southeast.

The only other year since 1950 that there have been zero tornado reports in the first half of March was 1969, according to the Weather Channel’s severe weather expert Dr. Greg Forbes.

Per Dr. Forbes’ report from January 1 to March 12, only 27 tornadoes had been documented across the nation — the slowest start to the year since the 21 tornadoes recorded through March 12, 2003.

Sure enough a glance at the latest U.S. tornado statistics recorded by NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center shows 28 preliminary tornado reports so far in 2015 — 26 in January and 2 in February and 0 in March (to March 13).

Here they are:

2015_annual_map_torn

As insurers know, a slow start to any catastrophe season is not something to hang your hat on.

In an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide and tornadoes are among the largest causes of insured losses in any given year, accounting for 37.2 percent of insured catastrophe losses from 1994 to 2013, according to I.I.I. facts and statistics on tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Meanwhile, Climate Central reports that an experimental forecast team has put together the first seasonal outlook for tornadoes in the U.S. That forecast suggests the highest chances are for an average tornado season.

The researchers from Columbia University looked into how cyclical climate patterns known as El Niño and La Niña influence the larger atmospheric environment that sets the stage for tornado activity.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience they show that while El Niño tends to dampen tornado activity, La Niña can give it a boost.

Because the El Niño declared by forecasters earlier this month is a very weak one, the Columbia team is limited in what they can say about this year’s season, Climate Central says.

But based on their findings, the team gives a 60 percent chance that the 2015 tornado season will see normal levels of activity, a 30 percent chance that it will be below normal and a 10 percent chance it will be above normal.

Economic Impact of April Thunderstorms

If you haven’t read it already, the April edition of the Global Catastrophe Recap Report by Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting puts some numbers around the thunderstorm events that devastated parts of the United States last month.

According to the report, severe weather and flash flooding that caused extensive damage across more than 20 states in April will likely be the first billion-dollar economic loss event of 2014 attributed to convective thunderstorms.

At least 39 people were killed and 250 injured amid nearly 70 confirmed tornado touch-downs, which occurred across more than 20 states in the Plains, Mississippi Valley, Southeast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic.

Economic losses are set to exceed $1 billion, with insured losses minimally in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Impact Forecasting reports.

Another U.S. severe weather outbreak in April led to major damage in parts of the Plains, Midwest and the Mississippi Valley. The most significant damage was due to hail, as hailstones the size of softballs struck the Denton, Texas metro region.

Total economic losses were estimated at $950 million, with insured losses in excess of $650 million, according to the report.

In a press release Adama Podlaha, head of Impact Forecasting, says:

The recent outbreaks of tornadoes, large hail and damaging straight-line winds in the United States have emphasized the importance of historical data analysis for insurers and reinsurers when trying to forecast future losses.†

If you’re wondering how many convective thunderstorm events made the list of significant natural catastrophes in 2013, take a look at this slide from a presentation made by I.I.I. president Dr. Robert Hartwig at the National Tornado Summit in February.

It shows that thunderstorms accounted for  six of the  nine significant natural catastrophe events with $1 billion economic loss and/or 50 fatalities in 2013.

Storm Reports Reflect Tornado Toll

A major severe weather outbreak continues  across parts of the southern and eastern U.S.  today,  as insurers  rush to multiple states hit Sunday and Monday by a total of more than 90 tornadoes, some of which caused fatalities.

Here are  the NOAA Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC) storm reports for Sunday, April 27 and Monday, April 28:

A fact that often goes unreported is that tornadoes are among the largest causes of insured losses in any given year, accounting for 36 percent of all insured losses since 1983, according to the I.I.I.

Increasingly dense suburban development across the U.S. is putting more people and property in areas at risk  of tornadoes than ever before.

Eighty percent of U.S. natural disaster related insurance claims payouts in 2013 were attributable to tornadoes and severe thunderstorms—$10.27 billion out of total estimate of $12.79 billion, according to remarks made in February 2014 by I.I.I. president Robert Hartwig, at the National Tornado Summit  in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Hartwig: Economic Toll of Tornadoes Adding Up

Today’s post by fellow blogger Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), comes to us live from the National Tornado Summit in Oklahoma:

Hurricanes get the headlines, but tornadoes are stealing their thunder. The economic toll of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms is adding up – to the tune of an average $9.6 billion per year payout in insurance claims. I.I.I.’s CEO/President Dr. Robert Hartwig made that point clear at the National Tornado Summit held this week in Oklahoma City.

Dr. Hartwig’s presentation on tornadoes and the insurance trends for severe convective events noted that tornadoes account for 36 percent of all insured losses since 1993; hurricanes losses over that time period were a just over 40 percent. He pointed out that areas in the heart of “Tornado Alley” may have 20-25 severe weather days each year. But, it’s not the number of storms that matters most. It’s all about where they hit.

Tornadoes are part of the landscape in many areas of the U.S., and the landscape has changed. If a tornado touches down on farmland, there may be little to no structural damage, and no witnesses to record the event. Today, what was once farmland is dense suburban development, putting more people and more property in a twister’s path — and bringing more devastation.

Average insured losses from thunderstorms are up seven fold since the 1980s. Historically, Oklahoma is second to Texas in terms of losses from tornadoes, thunderstorms and hail. The tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma in May 2013 was the costliest storm of the year. At the Tornado Summit, Moore’s Mayor said he expects 85 percent of Moore residents will rebuild. That’s insurance at work!

To help spearhead the rebuilding of schools in Moore, Dr. Hartwig presented the Moore Public Schools with a check for $10,000 following his presentation at the Summit. He reminded the audience that knowing the numbers associated with natural disasters is a small part of the story. It’s helping the people impacted that matters most to the insurance industry. The I.I.I.’s contribution on behalf of the insurance industry underscored the human factor of disaster recovery, and that reminder earned a standing ovation.

2013 Nat Cat Losses Below Average

Of the five costliest natural catastrophes for  the insurance industry  in 2013, only  two were U.S. events, though neither ranked first or second, according to Munich Re.

In its 2013 Natural Catastrophe Year-in-Review Webinar jointly presented with the I.I.I., Munich Re noted that hailstorms in Germany in July actually caused the highest insured losses of the year. This was also the insurance industry’s most expensive hail event in German history, costing $4.8 billion in overall  economic losses,  of which  $3.7 billion was insured.

Flooding in Europe in June was the  second most costly natural catastrophe for the insurance industry in 2013, causing insured losses of $3 billion, though overall economic losses from this event totaled $15.2 billion, making it the costliest natural catastrophe of the year in terms of economic losses.

With not a single storm of hurricane strength reaching the U.S. mainland during a quiet Atlantic hurricane season, the most serious natural catastrophe in the U.S. in 2013 was a series of  very severe tornadoes  in Oklahoma, according to Munich Re.

On May 21 a  tornado of the highest category (five), with wind speeds over 300km/h devastated the suburb of Moore. The overall economic loss resulting from the squall line totaled $3.1 billion, of which $1.8 billion was insured. This was the third most costly natural catastrophe for insurers in 2013.

In a year in which insured losses from natural catastrophes in the U.S. totaled $12.8 billion – far below the 2000 to 2012 average loss of $29.4 billion (in 2013 dollars), it’s interesting to note that insured losses from thunderstorm events exceeded $10 billion, despite the lowest observed tornado count in a decade.

Munich Re  reported that average insured thunderstorm losses have increased sevenfold since 1980.

Overall, Munich Re said economic losses from natural catastrophes worldwide in 2013 amounted to around $125 billion and insured losses  around $31 billion. These were both below the 10-year averages of $184 billion and $56 billion, respectively.

While floods and hailstorms caused double-digit billion-dollar losses in central Europe, in the Philippines one of the strongest cyclones in history, Supertyphoon Haiyan, resulted in a human catastrophe with over 6,000 fatalities, Munich Re added.

New Jersey Tornado

Reports of a “small tornado† in New Jersey hit very close to home Monday morning as I was driving to an appointment when torrential rain and thunderstorms bore down.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has confirmed that the EF-0 tornado touched down in Union County, New Jersey, amid a band of thunderstorms that brought heavy rain and flooding to parts of the state yesterday.

The tornado touched down in Berkeley Heights and for eight minutes cut a path nearly 50 yards wide and 4.8 miles long northeast through New Providence and Summit.

Winds reached an estimated 85 mph and extensive tree damage was observed along the tornado path, the NWS said.

The NJ Star Ledger reports that New Jersey has experienced at least one tornado in each of the last five years, according to records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All of them were listed as EF-0, the lowest designation.

Here’s a visual of the tornado’s path, courtesy of NJ.com and the NWS:

An EF-1 tornado is also confirmed to have touched down in Connecticut yesterday, causing property damage.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Lloyd’s on Tornado Trends

Data on tornadoes can be both unreliable and inconsistent, making it impossible to identify long term trends, according to a new report from Lloyd’s.

Tornado records underreport tornado numbers and changes in classification of tornado strengths adds further uncertainty, making it even more difficult to determine trends in tornado frequency and severity, the report says. Even in the United States detailed records only exist back to 1950.

While the number of officially recorded tornadoes has risen, this can be attributed to better reporting, tracking and more people, homes and infrastructure in the path of a tornado, Lloyd’s says.

The report notes:

Despite the anomalous 2011 season there is no trend in the number of strong to violent tornadoes between 1950 and 2012, evidence that the number of high intensity events has not increased over that period.†

Note: 2011 was an unusually active and deadly year for tornadoes across the U.S., with over 1,600 tornadoes recorded, more than any other year on record except for 2004. Costs were high, with seven individual tornado and severe weather outbreaks recording damages that exceeded $1 billion. Total damage from the outbreaks is estimated at in excess of $28 billion.

But while the number of violent tornado losses may not be increasing, insured losses are.

The report identifies a clear trend of increasing annual aggregate losses to the insurance market and says that billion dollar losses are becoming more common:

As exposure continues to increase, tornadoes represent a more serious threat to the insurance industry. An active tornado season hitting populated areas could result in high damages and it is important that insurers consider modeling and managing potential exposure.†

Check out I.I.I. facts+statistics on tornadoes here. PC360 has more on this story.

Texas Tornadoes and Hail

As well as strong winds and heavy rains, hail – ranging from pea to baseball size – was a feature of the massive tornadoes that touched down in the Dallas Fort Worth area yesterday.

Specifically, the Dallas-Fort Worth international airport reported that more than 100 aircraft were damaged by hail, according to CNN.

Hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Pea size hail measures an estimated  ¼ inch in diameter, while baseball size hail would measure about 2  ¾ inches.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reminds us that hail damage is covered under standard homeowners insurance. It is also covered under your auto policy provided you have comprehensive coverage.

Some insurers may have special deductibles in hail prone areas, to help keep insurance premiums at affordable levels.

Physical damage to aircraft as a result of hail would be covered under a hull insurance policy.

The I.I.I. reports there were over 9,000 major hail storms in 2010, according to statistics from NOAA’s Severe Storms database. Texas had the largest number of severe hail events in 2010, followed by Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Learn  how  to protect your home from hail in this I.I.I. video:

Tornado Tally

Damage assessments have begun in the wake of Friday’s powerful storm system that brought a massive outbreak of tornadoes across the Midwest and South and left 39 dead.

So far, the National Weather Service (NWS) has confirmed 42 tornadoes from Friday: Indiana – 3; Virginia – 1; North Carolina – 2; Ohio – 5; West Virginia – 2; Kentucky – 8; Tennessee – 8; Alabama – 7; Mississippi – 1; Georgia – 5.

However, this number will rise as NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) logged 107 preliminary tornado reports from Friday’s outbreak, according to Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog.

Dr. Masters notes that these preliminary reports are typically over counted by 15 percent and predicts the total number of tornadoes from Friday’s outbreak will probably finish in the 90 to 100 range.

The severe weather also brought damaging winds and hail.

Friday’s outbreak follows a separate storm system earlier in the week that spawned several tornadoes in the Midwest. The severe weather 28/29 February caused widespread property damage and left at least 12 dead.

NOAA issued 440 tornado warnings and 606 thunderstorm warnings last week alone. USA Today has an interesting article on how tornado forecasts saved countless lives.

The Insurance Information Institute’s facts and statistics are a useful resource on the insurance implications of tornadoes.

Latest information can also be found at Guy Carpenter’s online CAT-i bulletins and catastrophe modeling firm EQECAT’s CatWatch catastrophe reports.

See an animation of Friday’s developing severe weather system via NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite below: