Category Archives: Hurricanes

Hurricane Season Closing

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season officially comes to a close today and as we reflect on what was another active season, here’s a recap by the numbers, courtesy of NOAA.

Note to readers: NOAA’s totals include a post-storm upgrade of Tropical Storm Nate to hurricane status, and the addition of a short-lived unnamed tropical storm that formed in early September between Bermuda and Nova Scotia:

1: Irene was the only hurricane to make landfall in the United States in 2011 and the first to do so since Ike struck southeast Texas in 2008.

19: The total number of tropical storms this season, representing the third-highest total (tied with 1887, 1995 and 2010) since records began in 1951.

7: The number of tropical storms that became hurricanes in 2011, including three major hurricanes.

2005: The last year a major hurricane (Category 3, 4, or 5 with top winds of 111mph and greater) hit the U.S.

A few additional facts from other sources:

$4.3 billion: Estimated insured damages caused by Hurricane Irene, according to ISO as of November.

$52.1 million: The value of flood losses paid by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) due to Hurricane Irene as of mid-November.

Also check out Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog for an excellent recap of the season.

And here’s the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season in 4.5 minutes, via YouTube and NOAAVizualizations:

Irene And Flooding

As damage estimates start to be reported for Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, there is a growing consensus that much of the damage appears to have been caused by flooding rather than wind.

For example, in Vermont where the National Guard has begun airdropping supplies into flooded areas, Governor Peter Shumlin said Irene had resulted in the worst flooding the state has seen in a century.

Given the timing of Hurricane Irene, close to six years since Hurricane Katrina, it’s inevitable that this will lead some to draw comparisons.

PropertyCasualty360.com has an interesting piece on why it’s possible the insurance industry will face similar issues that arose with Hurricane Katrina and its wind vs. water discussion.

While it’s too early to tell just yet what proportion of Irene damage is the result of flooding, it’s important to reiterate that flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies.

Flood insurance is available through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and through some private insurers.

An online article at Knowledge@Wharton has some interesting observations on this issue.

It cites experts at the Wharton Risk Center saying that based on their analyses of NFIP data, it is very likely that many homeowners with damage from Hurricane Irene will not have purchased flood insurance even if they are required to have it.

According to Howard Kunreuther, co-director of Wharton’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center and cited in the article, it is also unlikely homeowners will have invested in measures to reduce losses from hurricanes.

As Kunreuther states:

Irene provides an opportunity to get the message across that ‘it can happen to me’ so that [people] will decide to undertake protective measures prior to the next disaster rather than after it occurs.†

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on flooding.

Are Fallen Trees Covered By Insurance?

As clean up efforts get underway on the U.S. East Coast and in the Northeast following Hurricane Irene,  one question on many peoples’ minds is whether their insurance covers fallen trees.

The good news is that if a tree hits a home or other insured structure due to wind, standard homeowners policies provide coverage for the damage the tree does to the structure and the contents in it.

It does not matter whether or not you own the tree. If it lands on your home, you should file a claim with your insurance company, the I.I.I. says.

If a tree hits an insured structure, such as your house or garage, there is also coverage for the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500 to $1,000, depending on the insurer and the type of policy purchased.

The I.I.I.’s Jeanne Salvatore has the answers to your fallen tree questions in this video:

Irene Takes Aim At East Coast

It’s been quite the weather week for those of us on the East Coast, with the Virginia earthquake and the imminent landfall of Hurricane Irene.

This morning we woke to the reality of a hurricane watch in effect for a large swathe of the north east from New Jersey to Massachussetts, including New York City, Long Island, Long Island Sound, Block Island, Boston, Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket.

Just to be clear, a hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical storm-force winds.

As of 8am EDT the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that Irene, currently a category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, is located some 375 miles south southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and moving to the north near 14 miles per hour.

NHC says that some re-intensificaton is possible and Irene is expected to be near the threshold between Category 2 and 3 as it reaches the North Carolina coast Saturday.

As Irene heads north, an important  statistic is that five of the top 10 states in terms of the value of insured coastal property vulnerable to hurricanes are situated in the northeast.

New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maine have some of the highest insured coastal property values in the country, according to the I.I.I.

Figures compiled by catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide show the total value of insured coastal exposure in these five states was $4.4 trillion in 2007. That’s about half the $8.9 trillion value of insured coastal property in hurricane prone states as a whole.

As we continue to track Irene, the I.I.I. reminds that in addition to wind, heavy flooding from storm surge and torrential rains caused by hurricanes also can cause major damage.

In the words of Dr. Robert Hartwig, I.I.I. president and an economist:

It may come as some surprise, but the top 10 most costly flood events in U.S. history are associated with hurricanes and tropical storms, with insured flood losses from Hurricane Katrina topping the list at $16 billion.†

The I.I.I. also notes that many still lack flood insurance as hurricane season nears its peak.

Hurricane Irene Strengthens

Hurricane Irene  has become  a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds increasing to near 115mph and   additional strengthening is possible.

That’s the latest  forecast from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in its 8am EDT advisory.

The core of Irene will move across the southeastern and central Bahamas today and over the Northwestern Bahamas tomorrow. Irene is then forecast to track up the Mid-Atlantic and  Eastern seaboard.

According to the NHC, Irene’s hurricane force winds extend outward up to 40 miles and tropical storm force winds up to 205 miles from the center.

This raises an important point. Regardless of where or whether Hurricane Irene makes U.S. landfall, storm-related winds, storm surge, rainfall and surf are all potential hazards that coastal residents from  the Carolinas  to Maine  may face on land.

Over at Wunderblog, Dr. Jeff Masters yesterday warned that Irene is a potential multi-billion dollar disaster for New England and the mid-Atlantic:

If Irene ends up skirting the Outer Banks of North Carolina and not significantly weakening, then plowing through the mid-Atlantic and New England states as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, it could become one of the ten most damaging hurricanes in history.†

Check out I.I.I. hurricane facts and stats and I.I.I. hurricane fact files by market share and state.

The NHC graphic below shows Irene’s tropical storm force wind probabilities for the next five days.

[Image of probabilities of tropical storm force winds]

Tropical Update

Meteorologists from Accuweather.com say indications are that the tropical Atlantic will give birth to several storm systems over the next few weeks.

Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist at Accuweather.com says:

It is possible that we will plow through at least three named systems by August 25:Â   Franklin, Gert and Harvey.

August is a time when the Cape Verde storms (tropical systems that originate from the Cape Verde Islands near Africa) begin to ramp up, while the risk of near-shore formation of storms continues.†

According to the National Hurricane Center, two areas of low pressure in the eastern Atlantic Ocean have a medium chance of developing into tropical cyclones during the next 48 hours.

Just last week NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center raised the number of expected named storms for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

NOAA now expects 14 to 19 named storms, up from its earlier forecast of 12 to 18, while the expected number of hurricanes also increased to 7 to 10 (from 6 to 10).

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

NOAA: Increase In Named Storms

Tropical storm Emily, the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, may have dissipated for now, but it’s important to remember that we’re approaching the peak months for storm activity.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center yesterday issued its updated 2011 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, raising the number of expected named storms from its pre-season outlook issued in May.

NOAA now expects 14 to 19 named storms, up from its earlier forecast of 12 to 18, while the expected number of hurricanes also increased to 7 to 10 (from 6 to 10).

The confidence for an above-normal season has increased to 85 percent, from 65 percent in May.

In the words of Dr. Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center:

The atmosphere and Atlantic Ocean are primed for high hurricane activity during August through October. Storms through October will form more frequently and become more intense than we’ve seen so far this season.†

The Atlantic basin has already produced five tropical storms this season: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don and Emily. Tropical Storm Don quickly disintegrated after making landfall  in southern Texas July 29.

The last hurricane to make landfall in the United States was Ike in 2008.

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

Hurricane Season Just Days Away

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins Wednesday and so far all signs point to above-average activity.

But as the Palm Beach Post’s Eye On The Storm blog recently pointed out: all hurricane seasons are active, as attested by  last year’s 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes.

That said, in  its just-released pre-season forecast, London-based consortium Tropical Storm Risk (TSR)  is sticking  to its April prediction for 14 named storms, with seven to eight hurricanes and three to four intense hurricanes (Category 3 to 5).

TSR expects the 2011 season will see activity about 25 percent above the long-term (1950-2010) norm.

Just last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted the 2011 season would see 12 to 18 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes.

The last time a major hurricane (Category 3-5) made landfall in the U.S. was in 2005, but it’s been only three years since Hurricane Ike, which ranks as the third most costly hurricane in U.S. history.

If you want to compare the views of the major forecasters, Guy Carpenter’s GCCapitalIdeas blog has a summary of the latest predictions.

Many, including Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project, will issue updated forecasts next week.

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

Oh, and take a minute to  check out this recap of the 2010 hurricane season, courtesy of Discovery:

Early Hurricane Forecasts

Early 2011 Atlantic hurricane season forecasts are coming in and based on the latest information it appears we can continue to expect above average activity when the season gets underway June 1.

Here’s a glance at how they stack up.

Forecasters at the Colorado State University’s (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project are predicting 16 named storms, with 9 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes (Category 3-4-5). They are also calling for above average chance that a major hurricane will make U.S. and Caribbean landfall.

London-based consortium Tropical Storm Risk is calling for 14 named storms, with seven to eight hurricanes and three to four major hurricanes. TSR forecasts Atlantic basin and U.S. landfalling tropical cyclone activity at about 25 percent above the 1950-2010 norm.

Accuweather.com Hurricane Center meteorologists are also predicting an active season for 2011, with 15 named storms, eight of which are expected to become hurricanes, with three major hurricanes. They also expect more impact on the U.S. coastline than last year.

For insurers these early forecasts give a general idea of what’s to come, but of course, it’s still very early days.

As CSU says:

“Everyone should realize that it is impossible to precisely predict this season’s hurricane activity in early April.†

Updated forecasts will be released around June 1, when hurricane season opens.

Check out I.I.I. hurricane facts and stats.

Hurricane insurance in one chart

Hurricane season doesn’t start for another couple of months, but recently, I.I.I. requested a chart showing the sum of all catastrophe losses since 1980, broken down by state. Insurance Services Office obliged with data from its Property Claims Services Unit. The results may surprise you:

iso cat loss chart_2 3 26

In all, insurers have paid out nearly $380 billion in catastrophe losses (adjusted for inflation to present day dollars). Three states – Florida, Texas and Louisiana – make up more than a third of that number – driven largely by hurricanes.