Category Archives: Hurricanes

Flood Insurance Imperative

A raised hurricane season forecast from NOAA and a timely reminder from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) on flood insurance are our topics du jour.

NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook now anticipates 12 to 17 named storms, up from nine to 15 initially forecast. If you consider that to-date we’ve already seen six named storms, that likely means there’s some significant activity to come during the season’s peak period from August through October.

In NOAA’s words:

We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic. These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season.†

While El Nià ±o is a competing factor, NOAA doesn’t expect its influence until later in the season.

Inland flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last year caused significant damage for many home and business owners.

A  timely reminder  from the I.I.I. urges homeowners to consider buying flood insurance. I.I.I. makes the important point that flood insurance covers your property against hurricane-caused storm surges as well as flooding generated by the torrential rains, which often accompanies tropical storms.

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damage, but 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.

Earlier this summer, after a series of short-term reauthorizations, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 which renews the NFIP for five years.

A Huffington Post piece by Wharton School professors Erwann Michel-Kerjan and Howard Kunreuther discusses the significant reforms to the NFIP as a result of this new law.

Insurance Journal also has a great article by Lori Widmer titled What to Know about the New Flood Insurance Program.

Hurricane Andrew 20 Years On

As the fifth named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall last night on the Yucatan Peninsula, far from U.S. coastlines, we take you back to 1992 – a late-starting season that saw only six storms beginning with the historic Hurricane Andrew.

Here’s a satellite animation of Andrew’s path across Florida and into Louisiana, courtesy of NOAA Visualizations:

A new paper, Hurricane Andrew and Insurance: The Enduring Impact of an Historic Storm, authored by Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), points out that the cost of Hurricane Andrew is only part of its legacy:

The storm revealed that Florida’s vulnerability to hurricanes had been seriously underestimated, and that wakeup call was responsible for many of the insurance market changes that have occurred in coastal states over the last two decades.†

In its analysis, the paper outlines six key insurance market changes attributed to the costliest disaster in Florida history:

— More carefully managed coastal exposure.

— Larger role of government in insuring coastal risks.

— Introduction of hurricane deductibles.

— Greater use of reinsurance capital from around the world.

— The birth and rapid evolution of sophisticated catastrophe modeling.

— Strong support for strengthened building codes and the importance of enforcement of these codes, as well as enhanced understanding of the necessity of mitigation.

It’s worth noting that insurance claims payouts for Andrew totaled $15.5 billion at the time ($25 billion in 2011 dollars), and it remains the second costliest U.S. natural disaster, after Hurricane Katrina, which hit in 2005.

A repeat of Hurricane Andrew on its 20-year anniversary would produce more than twice the losses of the 1992 storm, as much as $57 billion in insured losses, according to estimates by AIR Worldwide Corp.

Check out  I.I.I. information  on hurricane and windstorm deductibles.

Atlantic Hurricane Season: Peak Months Ahead

July may have ended with no named storms in the Atlantic, but a system located east of the Windward Islands has a high chance (60 percent) of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours, according to latest  forecasts from  the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

A Weather Channel report reminds us that some 93 percent of major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale) – those causing the most damage — occur during the peak months from August through October.

Another reason for residents of hurricane-prone areas not to let their guard down.

Insurers know this only too well. In a ranking of the top ten most costly hurricanes in the United States posted at III.org, all 10 hurricanes on the list occurred from August through October.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, the category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992. It’s important to note that Andrew was the first storm in a late-starting season that produced only six named storms.

Check out I.I.I. president Dr. Robert Hartwig’s presentation on the legacy of Hurricane Andrew.

Storm Surge Report Highlights Need For Flood Insurance

A new report from CoreLogic underscores just how important a purchase of flood insurance may be to homeowners, especially those living in the Northeast.

The report reveals that over four million homes in the U.S. along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are at risk of hurricane-driven storm-surge damage, with more than $700 billion in total property exposure.

In the Atlantic coast region alone, there are around 2.2 million homes at risk, valued at more than $500 billion. Total exposure along the Gulf Coast is nearly $200 billion, with just under 1.8 million homes at risk for potential storm-surge damage.

What this means is that there are millions of homeowners living outside of FEMA designated flood zones that might still be in an area susceptible to coastal storm-surge flooding.

CoreLogic makes the point that FEMA flood zones define areas at risk for fresh-water flooding, which is an entirely different hazard than hurricane-driven storm surge.

Extensive areas along both coasts are actually vulnerable to storm surge, yet not located within designated FEMA flood zones—and therefore homeowners are not required to purchase flood insurance.†

It goes on:

Since homeowner’s insurance excludes flood losses from either fresh or salt water, homeowners who are not located in FEMA flood zones but are in high-risk surge zones have not historically considerebuying National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) coverage for their properties.†

To illustrate its point CoreLogic compared the number of homes in surge inundation zones against those located in both surge and FEMA flood zones for each of 14 metro areas.

For example, of 463,844 total properties exposed to flood or surge inundation in the New York/Northern New Jersey/Long Island metro area, 68.1 percent are located in a surge zone, but only 1.9 percent are located in a FEMA flood zone, while 30.1 percent are located in both a flood zone and a surge zone.

Hurricane Irene in 2011 showed the level of damage that even a weak storm could cause, but CoreLogic estimates the storm surge from a Category 4 storm hitting New York City and Long Island could cause damage of nearly $168 billion.

An I.I.I. chart shows that the top 10 most costly flood events in the U.S. ranked by NFIP payouts are associated with hurricanes or tropical storms.

2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season: What’s in a Name?

Today marks the official start of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, but already we have seen two named storms form.

Here’s the list of storm names for 2012:

Alberto
Beryl
Chris
Debby
Ernesto
Florence
Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie
Michael
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sandy
Tony
Valerie
William

In case you were wondering, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) tells us the list of Atlantic tropical storm names is determined by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization.

For Atlantic hurricanes, there is a list of names for each of six years that are used in rotation. This means a list is repeated every seventh year, so the 2012 list will be used again in 2018.

The only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.

More information on the history of naming tropical cyclones and retired names can be found at the NHC website.

Meanwhile, check out the following  handy hurricane-related resources from the I.I.I.

NOAA Advises Hurricane-Prone Residents To Prepare

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) yesterday stressed the need for residents of hurricane-prone areas to prepare every year, despite its prediction of a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said:

NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years. But regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.†

Andrew, the category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992, was the first storm in a late-starting season that produced only six named storms.

NOAA’s outlook for the 2012 season which begins June 1, says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher) and of those one to three will become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4, or 5).

It also cited Hurricane Irene in 2011 as a reminder that tropical systems can affect the Northeast and bring the threat of inland flooding.

NOAA’s outlook does not predict how many storms will hit land, but earlier this week, London-based consortium Tropical Storm Risk predicted two hurricanes would make U.S. landfall in 2012, close to the 1950-2011 norm.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on hurricanes and flood insurance.

Here’s an animation of the 2011 season, courtesy of NOAAVisualizations:

2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season Off To Early Start

While you were out running errands Saturday, the first named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season was forming off the coast of South Carolina.

The early formation of Tropical Storm Alberto, 13 days before the official start of the season is a reminder that coastal residents need to be prepared.

A list of preparedness and safety tips at the FEMA blog can help you do just that.

Over at Wunderblog Dr. Jeff Masters places Alberto in historical context:

– Alberto is the earliest-forming tropical storm in the Atlantic since Ana in 2003, which formed on April 21.

– Alberto is one of only three Atlantic tropical storms to form in May in the past 31 years. The others were Tropical Storm Arthur of 2008 and Tropical Storm Arlene of 1981.

Does an early storm point to an active season?

Dr. Masters says not:

Formation of an early season tropical storm from an old frontal boundary, like occurred with Alberto, is not a harbinger of an active hurricane season—it’s more of a random occurrence.†

Had Alberto formed in the Caribbean though, the story may have been different indicating instead a busy hurricane season.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes  and hurricane fact files and market share by state.

Irene Joins Top Ten Most Costly U.S. Hurricanes

A new ranking of the top ten most costly hurricanes just released by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) puts 2011’s Hurricane Irene in tenth place, replacing 2004’s Hurricane Jeanne.

Hurricane Irene made landfall near Cape Lookout, North Carolina, on August 27, 2011 as a Category 1 storm and a second landfall in New Jersey and New York City as a tropical storm the next day.

In all, Irene affected 14 states and resulted in $4.3 billion in insured damages, according to the Property Claim Services unit of ISO, and was directly responsible for 41 fatalities.

The insured damages tally does not include flood damage that is covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Irene caused major flooding as it headed northward up the Atlantic seaboard. The I.I.I. notes that Irene caused catastrophic flooding in New York and New England, especially Vermont.

Here’s the ranking:

TOP TEN MOST COSTLY HURRICANES IN THE UNITED STATES (1)
($ millions)
Estimated insured loss (2)
Rank Date Location Hurricane Dollars when
occurred
In 2011
dollars (3)
1 Aug. 25-30, 2005 AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, TN Katrina $41,100 $46,591
2 Aug. 24-26, 1992 FL, LA Andrew 15,500 22,939
3 Sep. 12-14, 2008 AR, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, OH, PA, TX Ike 12,500 13,050
4 Oct. 24, 2005 FL Wilma 10,300 11,676
5 Aug. 13-14, 2004 FL, NC, SC Charley 7,475 8,755
6 Sep. 15-21, 2004 AL, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NJ, NY, NC,
OH, PA, TN, VA, WV
Ivan 7,110 8,328
7 Sep. 17-22, 1989 GA, NC, PR, SC, VA, U.S. Virgin Islands Hugo 4,195 6,835
8 Sep. 20-26, 2005 AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, TN, TX Rita 5,627 6,379
9 Sep. 3-9, 2004 FL, GA, NY, NC, SC Frances 4,595 5,382
10 Aug. 26-28, 2011 CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT Irene 4,300 4,300

(1) Includes hurricanes occurring through 2011.
(2) Property coverage only. Does not include flood damage covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program.
(3) Adjusted for inflation through 2011 by ISO using the GDP implicit price deflator.

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

Preview of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Ahead of the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando next week, Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project has issued a brief update of the atmospheric/oceanic conditions likely to impact the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

The key takeaway, in the words of the CSU team:

The combination of a warming tropical Pacific and a cooling tropical Atlantic are leading us to think that the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season will have less activity than the average 1981-2010 season.†

Despite its forecast for lower activity, the CSU team stresses that there is inherent uncertainty in seasonal tropical cyclone (TC) prediction and that hurricanes can make landfall in inactive seasons and do major damage (e.g. Hurricane Alicia in 1983 and Andrew in 1992).

Their recommendation:

Coastal residents need to prepare the same for every hurricane season.†

The CSU team presents four possible scenarios for the season ahead, based on the strength of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) and the phase of El Nià ±o – Southern Oscillation (ENSO):

– A 45 percent chance that the THC continues in the above-average condition it has been in since 1995 and a significant El Nià ±o develops resulting in a seasonal average net tropical cyclone (NTC) activity of 85, suggesting 8-11 named storms, 4-6 hurricanes, 1-2 major hurricanes.

– A 25 percent chance of a continuing above-average THC and no El Nià ±o develops, resulting in NTC activity of 130, with 12-15 named storms, 6-9 hurricanes, 3-4 major hurricanes.

– A 25 percent chance that the THC becomes weaker and a significant El Nià ±o develops, resulting in NTC activity of 50, with 5-7 named storms, 2-4 hurricanes, 0-1 major hurricanes.

– A 5 percent chance that THC becomes unusually strong in 2012 and no El Nià ±o develops resulting in NTC activity of 180, with 14-17 named storms, 9-11 hurricanes, 4-5 major hurricanes.

AÂ  full discussion of the CSU team’s 2012 Atlantic basin hurricane forecast will follow on April 4.

Meanwhile, check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes.

Looking Ahead to the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season

It is better to be qualitatively right than quantitatively wrong.†

This Warren Buffett quote cited by Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project opens their discussion of the features likely to affect next year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

As the Palm Beach Post’s Eye On the Storm blog notes, for the first time in 29 years, the CSU team is limiting its December forecast to probabilities rather than estimating the number of tropical storms that will form, which will become hurricanes, and which of those will be major hurricanes.

The CSU team says:

We have suspended issuing quantitative forecasts at this extended-range lead time, since they have not proved skillful over the last 20 years.†

Instead, the CSU team looked at two parameters: the strength of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) and the phase of El Nià ±o – Southern Oscillation (ENSO):

We have been in an active era for Atlantic basin tropical cyclones since 1995, and we expect that typical conditions associated with a positive Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO) and strong thermohaline circulation (THC) to continue.†

The CSU team expects the 2012 Atlantic basin hurricane season will be primarily determined by the strength of the THC/AMO and by the state of ENSO.

So what can we glean about next year’s hurricane activity from their discussion?

– A 45 percent chance that the THC continues in the above-average condition it has been in since 1995 and no El Nià ±o develops resulting in a seasonal average net tropical cyclone (NTC) activity of 140, suggesting 12-15 named storms, 7-9 hurricanes, 3-4 major hurricanes.

– A 30 percent chance of a continuing above-average THC with the development of a significant El Nià ±o, resulting in NTC activity of 75, with 8-11 named storms, 3-5 hurricanes, 1-2 major hurricanes.

– A 15 percent chance that THC circulation becomes unusually strong in 2012 and no El Nià ±o develops resulting in NTC activity of 180, with 14-17 named storms, 9-11 hurricanes, 4-5 major hurricanes.

– A 10 percent chance of a weaker THC and a significant El Nià ±o resulting in NTC activity of 40, with 5-7 named storms, 2-3 hurricanes, 0-1 major hurricanes.

Come back April 4 for the CSU team’s update of its 2012 Atlantic basin hurricane forecast.

In the mean time check out  Ã‚  I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes.