Category Archives: Hurricanes

Insurance consortium offers geospatial intelligence

Aircraft carrying sophisticated image sensors are flying over the Carolinas this week to gather high quality photographs of areas impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Image of damage on Emerald Isle NC. This was one of the first areas that GIC flew over earlier this week.

Within 24 hours of capture, the images will be published online to provide State Emergency Operation Centers with high-resolution representations of disaster areas. The images will be 10 to 15 times better than satellite imagery.

The images are captured by the Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC), a first-of-its-kind consortium  formed by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), former founders of Microsoft Bing Maps (now Vexcel Imaging), and several insurers.

GIC’s response efforts proved critical in 2017, when it provided unprecedented access to post-disaster aerials over Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands – covering larger areas than any other response to date.

Hurricane Dos and Don’ts

If you live in the projected path of Hurricane Florence, you should be prepping your home and finalizing your emergency and evacuation plans.  

Heavy rain and wind storm at a beach front condo property.

Here are some Dos and Don’ts to consider for prepping and riding out the storm.  

Don’t: 

  • Don’t go outside during the storm. This is a no-brainer. Even a category 1 hurricane can reach sustained winds of 74 mph. Category 5 winds are over 156 mph. Wind speeds like this can turn even small debris into deadly missiles. And don’t be fooled by the eye of the storm – there will be a period of calm before the hurricane force winds return from the opposite direction.
  • Don’t grill indoors. If your power goes out, don’t be tempted to throw some steaks onto a grill indoors. Charcoal or gas grills can release deadly levels of carbon monoxide.
  • Don’t drink non-bottled or untreated water. Flood waters are often filled with bacteria and other contaminants – including sewage. Don’t drink tap water – and don’t drink any water exposed to flood water, including bottled water. The FDA has tips on how to make your tap water safe to drink.
  • Don’t drink alcohol. I repeat: Don’t drink alcohol during a hurricane. You never know when you will need to evacuate at a moment’s notice or deal with a life-threatening emergency. You’re going to want all your wits about you while the hurricane is raging – lives could depend on it, yours included. That’s why some jurisdictions will ban alcohol sales prior to a hurricane.  

Do: 

  • Do stock up on lots of water. The CDC recommends at least 5 gallons of water per person. You may also want to buy iodine tablets to clean drinking water.  
  • Do make sure you have more to eat than chips and salsa. Or bread, for that matter – you’re going to want to have lots of non-perishables with nutritional value, especially canned foods. A minimum 3 to 5-day supply per person is recommended.
  • Do prepare your house properly. Clear your yard of furniture or anything else that could blow away. Cover your windows and doors using storm shutters or plywood – and stay away from windows and doors during the storm, if you can. Make sure your carbon dioxide detector has enough battery life to prevent CO poisoning. (Check out a longer list for house prep here. I.I.I. also recently gave some advice on preparing your home.)
  • Do be responsible and prepare for the worst. Make sure you have emergency and evacuation plans in place before the storm hits. Communicate these plans to everyone at your house. Find out where the nearest storm shelter is. Keep track of the storm. Have flashlights and extra batteries ready. Buy a first aid kit. Ready.gov has more advice here 

These are not exhaustive lists. Make sure to check governmental information for help on prepping for a hurricane. And be safe out there. Hurricanes are not a joke. 

Hurricane Florence – property losses and insurance implications

Approximately 758,657 homes in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia with a reconstruction cost value (RCV) of approximately $170.2 billion are at potential risk of storm surge damage from Hurricane Florence, according to a Corelogic® release.

As we continue to keep a close watch on Hurricane Florence, we’ve put together a list of our content to help understand the insurance implications of storm related property losses.

Hurricane Florence – Home preparedness tips

Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall along the Southeast or Mid-Atlantic coast as a category 4 storm on September 13.

According to computer model forecasts, Florence will come ashore in Southeast North Carolina, although slight variations could alter the path of the storm that will affect areas of the nation that are far away from the location of its landfall.

A state of emergency has been declared in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia in order to mobilize resources to mitigate the effects of the storm. If you are in the path of the storm, plan your evacuation route ahead of time!

Below are just a few steps you can take to protect your home:

  • Cut weak branches and trees that could fall on your house and keep shrubbery trimmed.
  • Hurricane force winds can turn landscaping materials into missiles that can break windows and doors. Much of the property damage associated with hurricanes occurs after the windstorm, when rain enters structures through broken windows, doors, and openings in the roof.
  • If you don’t have storm shutters to protect your windows from breakage, fit plywood panels to your windows, which can be nailed to window frames when a storm approaches.
  • Make sure exterior doors are hurricane-proof and have at least three hinges and a dead bolt lock that is at least one-inch long.
  • Seal outside wall openings such as vents, outdoor electrical outlets, garden hose bibs and locations where cables or pipes go through the wall. Use a high quality urethane-based caulk to prevent water penetration.
  • If you live in a mobile home, make sure you know how to secure it against high winds and be sure to review your mobile home insurance policy.
  • If you have a boat on a trailer, know how to anchor the trailer to the ground or house—and review your boat insurance policy.
  • If you have a swimming pool, lower the water level (additional tips here.)

For more detail on what to do when a hurricane threatens click here.

Hawaii braces for Hurricane Lane

I.I.I. non-resident scholar Phil Klotzbach gives us a forecast update on Hurricane Lane which is tracking northwest to the islands of Hawaii.

 

Whether Lane makes landfall in Hawaii or not, heavy rainfall and wind threaten the islands and residents are urged to make necessary preparations.

Hawaii’s Insurance Department has issued a declaration authorizing temporary assistance of nonresident unlicensed independent adjusters due to the anticipated arrival of the hurricane.

The last hurricane to hit Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

 

The I.I.I. has a Hawaii Hurricane Fact File here.

Revised 2018 Hurricane Season Forecast (August 2, 2018)

By Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane forecasting team, and I.I.I. non-resident scholar. 

Watch the video

Colorado State University (CSU) updated its outlook for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season today, and they continue to call for a below-normal season with a total of 12 named storms (including Alberto, Beryl and Chris), 5 hurricanes (including Beryl and Chris) and 1 major hurricane (maximum sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater; Category 3-5 on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale) (Figure 1).  This prediction is similar to their early July forecast and is a considerable reduction from their earlier April and June outlooks which called for 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes and 14 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes, respectively.  Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) and Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity are integrated metrics that take into account the frequency, intensity and duration of storms.

Figure 1: August 2, 2018 outlook for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

CSU uses a statistical model as one of its primary outlook tools.  The statistical model uses historical oceanic and atmospheric data to find predictors that worked well at forecasting prior year’s hurricane activity and has shown considerable skill based on data back to 1979 (Figure 2).  The statistical forecast for 2018 is calling for a below-average season.

Figure 2: Skill of the July statistical forecast model at predicting historical Atlantic hurricane activity since 1982.

CSU also uses an analog approach, whereby the team looks for years in the past that had conditions most similar to what they see currently and what they predict for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season (August-October).  The forecast team currently anticipates below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Atlantic and warm neutral to weak El Niño conditions in the eastern and central Pacific.  The average of the five analog seasons also calls for a below-average season (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Analog predictors used in the August 2, 2018 seasonal forecast.

The primary reason that the seasonal forecast remains below average is due to much cooler than normal waters in the eastern and central tropical Atlantic.  Sea surface temperatures (Figure 4) are at their coldest levels on record (since 1982) for late July when averaged over the tropical Atlantic from 10-20°N, 60-20°W.  Colder water temperatures provide less fuel for developing tropical cyclones, and they also tend to be associated with drier and more stable air, which suppresses deep thunderstorms that are the building blocks of hurricanes.  This drier and more stable air has predominated over the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean over the past several weeks.

Figure 4: July-averaged SST anomalies in the North Atlantic.  SSTs are much cooler than normal across the entire tropical Atlantic.

CSU also believes that there is chance for a weak El Niño event developing for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season from August-October.  El Niños tend to reduce Atlantic hurricane activity through increases in upper-level winds that tear apart hurricanes as they are trying to develop.  NOAA gives a slightly higher than 50% chance of El Niño development in the next few months (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Official NOAA forecast for El Niño over the next several months.  The black arrow highlights the August-October period, which are the peak three months of the Atlantic hurricane season historically.  Figure courtesy of International Research Institute for Climate and Society.

Coastal residents are reminded that regardless of any seasonal forecast, they need to prepare the same for every hurricane season, since it only takes one storm to make it an active season for you.  A prime example of this is 1983.  The 1983 Atlantic hurricane season had only four named storms all year, that is, we only made it to the ‘D’ storm that year.  The first hurricane of that season, Alicia, was a major hurricane that caused major damage in southeast Texas.

Revised 2018 Hurricane Season Forecast

By Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane forecasting team, and I.I.I. non-resident scholar. 

Colorado State University (CSU) released its updated outlook for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season today, and they are now calling for a below-normal season with a total of 11 named storms (including Alberto which formed in May), four hurricanes and one major hurricane (maximum sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater; Category 3-5 on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale) (Figure 1).  This prediction is a considerable reduction from their June outlook which called for 14 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.  Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) and Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity are integrated metrics that take into account the frequency, intensity and duration of storms.

 

Figure 1: July 2, 2018 outlook for the forthcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

CSU employs a statistical model as one of its primary outlook tools.  The statistical model uses historical oceanic and atmospheric data to find predictors that worked well at forecasting prior year’s hurricane activity and has shown considerable skill based on data back to 1982 (Figure 2).  The statistical forecast for 2018 is calling for a below-average season.

Figure 2: Efficacy of statistical forecast model at predicting historical Atlantic hurricane activity since 1982.

CSU also uses an analog approach, whereby the team looks for past years with conditions that were most similar to what they see currently, and what they predict for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season (August-October).  The forecast team currently anticipates below-average to near-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Atlantic and warm neutral to weak El Niño conditions in the eastern and central Pacific.  This averaging of the five analog seasons also calls for a below-average season (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Analog predictors used in the July 2, 2018 seasonal forecast.

The primary reason for the reduction in the seasonal forecast was due to continued anomalous cooling of the tropical Atlantic.  Most of the Atlantic right now is much cooler than normal. (Figure 4).  In fact, current sea surface temperature anomalies in the tropical Atlantic are colder than any year since 1994.  In addition to providing less fuel for storms, a cooler tropical Atlantic is also associated with a more stable and drier atmosphere as well as higher pressure.  All of these conditions tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity.

Figure 4: Current SST anomalies in the North Atlantic.  SSTs are much cooler than normal across the entire tropical Atlantic.

CSU also believes that the chance has increased for a weak El Niño event developing to coincide with the peak of Atlantic hurricane season. El Niños tend to reduce Atlantic hurricane activity through increases in upper-level winds that tear apart hurricanes as they are trying to develop.  The dynamical and statistical model guidance is about evenly split between El Niño and neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña) conditions for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season (August-October) (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Statistical and dynamical model guidance for El Niño.  Model guidance is about evenly split between El Niño and neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña) for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season (denoted by the arrow).  Figure courtesy of International Research Institute for Climate and Society.

Coastal residents are reminded that it takes only one storm to make any hurricane season an “active” one. For example, CSU correctly predicted a quiet Atlantic hurricane season in 1992.  The season, in fact, was very quiet, with only seven named storms, four hurricanes and one major hurricane—but that major hurricane happened to be Hurricane Andrew, which tore across south Florida as a Category 5.

Philip J. Klotzbach, Ph.D. is Research Scientist, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University and an I.I.I. Nonresident Scholar. You can follow him on Twitter at @PhilKlotzbach

 

CoreLogic: 6.9 million homes worth over $1 trillion at risk for storm surge in 2018

Weather experts, including I.I.I. non-resident scholar, Dr. Phil Klotzbach, are predicting a slightly below average hurricane season for 2018, but that does not mean that the dangers of potential storm damage are negligible.

CoreLogic, an analytics company, released its annual Storm Surge report on June 5. The report found that along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, about 6.9 million coastal homes worth over $1 trillion are at risk. CoreLogic estimates reconstruction costs for 2018 increased 6.6 percent from a year ago, mirroring increased regional construction, equipment, and labor costs.

The Atlantic Coast has more than 3.9 million homes at risk of storm surge with reconstruction cost value of more than $1 trillion, up by about $30 billion from 2017. Gulf Coast homes with the same risk total more than 3 million, with more than $609 billion in potential exposure to total destruction damage, a $16 billion increase compared to 2017.

The reconstruction cost value is calculated based on 100 percent destruction of the residential structure, using the combined cost of construction materials, equipment and labor costs.

Updated 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook: Cooler Atlantic Temperatures Could Lead to Below-Average to Near-Average Hurricane Season

Special to the Triple-I Blog

by Philip Klotzbach,Ph.D,
Research Scientist, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University and I.I.I. Nonresident Scholar

Colorado State University (CSU) has just updated their outlook for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, and is now calling for a near-average season with a total of 14 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes (maximum sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater; Category 3-5 on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale) (Figure 1).  This prediction is a slight lowering from their initial outlook in early April which called for 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.  Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) and Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity are integrated metrics that take into account the frequency, intensity and duration of storms.

Figure 1: May 31, 2018 outlook for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season

CSU’s meteorological team uses a statistical model as one of its primary outlook tools.  This methodology applies historical oceanic and atmospheric data to find predictors that were effective in forecasting previous years’ hurricane activity. Based on data dating back to 1982, this model has shown consistent accuracy. (Figure 2)  Statistical forecast for 2018 is calling for a below-average season.

Figure 2: Accuracy of June statistical forecast model at predicting historical Atlantic hurricane activity (since 1982)

CSU also employs an analog approach, which uses historical data from past years with  conditions that are most similar to those currently observed (as of May 31, 2018).  The team also forecasts projected conditions during 2018 peak hurricane season (August-October) by looking at historical data from years with similar August-October conditions.

This approach yields a similar outlook of below-average to near-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Atlantic and near-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific.  The average of the four analog seasons calls for a near-average season. (Figure 3)

Figure 3: Analog predictors used in the May 31, 2018 seasonal forecast

CSU does not anticipate a significant El Niño event for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.  At this point, the meteorological team believes that the most likely outcome is neutral conditions for the next several months.  El Niños tend to reduce Atlantic hurricane activity through increases in upper-level winds that tear apart hurricanes as they are trying to develop.  Most of the dynamical and statistical model guidance agrees with this assessment and calls for neutral conditions for the next several months. (Figure 4)

Figure 4: Statistical and dynamical model guidance for El Niño

Most models are calling for neutral conditions for August-October, as highlighted by the black arrow. (Figure courtesy of International Research Institute for Climate and Society.)

The primary reason for a reduced seasonal forecast (compared with earlier 2018 outlook), is due to anomalous cooling of the tropical Atlantic over the past couple of months.  As shown in Figure 5. most of the Atlantic right now is quite a bit cooler than usual. In addition to providing less fuel for storms, a cooler tropical Atlantic is also associated with a more stable and drier atmosphere as well as higher pressure—all conditions that tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity.

Figure 5: Current SST anomalies in the North Atlantic.  SSTs are much cooler than normal across the entire tropical Atlantic

The most important thing to note with all seasonal forecasts is that they predict basinwide activity and not individual landfall events.  However, regardless of what the seasonal forecast says, it only takes one storm near you to make it an active season.  Therefore, coastal residents are urged to have a plan in place now before the hurricane season ramps up over the next couple of months.

Extra: If you live in a hurricane-prone region, your homeowners insurance policy may have a separate hurricane deductible. This infographic explains what you need to know.

The brown ocean effect – a trend to keep an eye on

Tropical cyclones usually weaken after they make landfall, but under certain conditions they may intensify or maintain their strength. This is called “the brown ocean effect,” a phenomenon when a large area of hot soil (usually a desert) is soaked by rain from a tropical storm, releasing heat into the atmosphere and fueling the storm. This phenomenon also requires that the lower level of atmosphere resembles a tropical one, and that there is minimal variation in temperature.

These conditions are most likely to occur in Australia, but can also happen in the U.S. and China, according to a recent AIR Worldwide blog post. A NASA-funded study that looked at 227 tropical storms between 1979 and 2008 found that after making landfall, 16 storms, including Tropical Storm Erin, maintained their tropical warm-core characteristics over land, and effectively became “brown ocean effect storms.”

NASA’s satellite image of Ex-Tropical Cyclone Kelvin, moving through Western Australia on Feb. 20, 2018