Category Archives: Hurricanes

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.

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: