Category Archives: Hurricanes

Peering Into the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season

With the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season closed, it’s already time to look ahead to next year’s hurricane season.

Forecasters at the Colorado State University’s (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project and London-based consortium Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) have just released their extended range forecasts for the 2011 season.

Both are forecasting that another above-average or very active season is likely.

The team at CSU is predicting 17 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.

Similarly, TSR is forecasting 15.6 named storms, 8.4 hurricanes and 4.0 intense hurricanes. TSR says there is 66 percent chance that activity in 2011 will be in the top one-third of years historically.

Now for the caveats. Both teams acknowledge that this far out their forecast skill is low.

TSR says:

It is clear that the skill of the extended range hurricane forecasts issued in early December, while positive, is low. Skill climbs slowly as the hurricane season approaches. Moderate skill levels are achieved in early June and good skill levels in early August.†

CSU also comments:

Everyone should realize that it is impossible to precisely predict next season’s hurricane activity at such an extended range†¦we advise the readers to use these forecasts with caution.†

Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog has  further analysis of the December forecasts.

Check back for our coverage of  next year’s  forecasts as hurricane season gets closer.

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

Hurricane Season Wrap-Up

The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season which ends today was one of the busiest on record, but a ‘gentle giant’ for the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA reminds us that the extremely active season saw a total of 19 named storms – which ties 2010 with 1887 and 1995 for third place for most number of named storms in a season.

Of those, 12 became hurricanes – tying 2010 with 1969 in second place for the highest number of hurricanes in a season. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.

A key takeaway of the 2010 season is that none of the 12 hurricanes in the Atlantic struck the U.S.

Since 1900 there is no precedent of an Atlantic hurricane season with 10 or more hurricanes where none struck the U.S., according to Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog.

In fact, Dr. Masters observes that the 11 previous seasons with 10 or more hurricanes – 1870, 1878, 1886, 1893, 1916, 1933, 1950, 1969, 1995, 1998, and 2005 – each had at least two hurricane strikes on the U.S.:

To me, this year is most memorable for what didn’t happen – we did not get a full fledged hurricane rip through the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, nor did a devastating hurricane cause massive loss of life in Haiti’s vulnerable earthquake zone.

However, two hurricanes from this year are virtually certain to get their names retired – Tomas and Igor – and two other storms that did billions of damage to Mexico, Karl and Alex, are likely to have their names retired as well.

Here’s  Wunderblog’s visual of the 2010 season:




A USA Today article  has more on this story. Check out I.I.I. hurricane facts and stats.

Late Season Hurricanes

An unprecedented late season Hurricane Tomas has triggered an insurance payout of $12.8 million from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), a multinational insurance pool developed by the World Bank.

Guy Carpenter reports that based on initial modeled losses, the CCRIF will pay out $8.5 million to Barbados, $3.2 million to St. Lucia and $1.1 million to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Tomas – the 12th hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season – hit the islands in the eastern Caribbean as a Category 1 storm on October 30, causing significant damage and power outages in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog notes that the intensification of late season Shary and Tomas into hurricanes brings the total number of hurricanes this season to 12, tying 2010 with 1969 and 1887 for second place for the most hurricanes in a season. The record is held by 2005 with 15 hurricanes.

The formation of Tomas so far south and east this late in the season is unprecedented in the historical record; no named storm has ever been present east of the Lesser Antilles (61.5Â °W) and south of 12Â °N latitude so late in the year.”

Tomas has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, but is likely to restrengthen by Tuesday, perhaps heading towards Haiti, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). If this happens, the 2010 season  would see  a rare November hurricane.

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

October Hurricanes

There are just seven weeks left to the official end of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30 and so far we have seen 16 named storms develop, of which nine have become hurricanes and five of those major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).

The latest named storm is Paula, which intensified to a Category 1 hurricane early today and is heading to the Yucatan Peninsula as we write.

While this season still has a way to go, thus far the U.S. coastline has been spared a major storm, so what are the chances of a major hurricane making U.S. landfall in October?

According to Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog the odds of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. are rapidly dwindling.

Dr. Masters reports that in the past 50 years, the only Category 3 or stronger hurricanes to hit the U.S. after October 1 were Hilda (October 3, 1964), Opal (October 4, 1995), and Wilma (October 24, 2005):

Although we still need to keep a wary eye on developments in the Western Caribbean over the next few weeks, the odds are that 2010 will join 1951 as the only year to have five or more major hurricanes in the Atlantic, but no landfalling major hurricane in the U.S.”

This prognosis may well prove true. Still, history shows that October hurricanes can be costly.

I.I.I.  hurricane  facts and stats reveal that October hurricanes Wilma and Opal rank among the top 15 most costly hurricanes in the U.S.

Hurricane Wilma ranks as the fourth most costly hurricane in the U.S., producing insured losses of $10.3 billion, or $11.3 billion in 2009 dollars. Hurricane Opal ranks as the 12th most costly hurricane in the U.S., with insured losses of $2.1 billion, or $2.96 billion in 2009 dollars.

Not chump change.

Note: just two of 2010’s named storms – Bonnie and Hermine  Ã¢â‚¬“ have made U.S. landfall this season and neither caused catastrophic damage, as reported by Matthew Sturdevant at the Hartford Courant.

Atlantic Hurricane Season Update

Latest glance at the National Weather Service National Hurricane Center (NHC) site shows that as of this morning there are now two active major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin.

Hurricane Igor and Hurricane Julia, the fourth and fifth hurricanes respectively of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, are both currently at Category 4 status (sustained winds of 131-155 mph).

Catastrophe modeling firm Risk Management Solutions (RMS) points out that the last time there were two hurricanes of category four strength or greater, active on the same day, was on this very day (September 15) in 1999 when Floyd and Gert were both category four hurricanes.

While both hurricanes right now remain far from the U.S. East coast, the NHC’s five-day forecast has Hurricane Igor heading for Bermuda.

Over at Wunderblog, Dr. Jeff Masters tallies up the season’s numbers thus far:

The intensification of Julia into a hurricane brings our activity tally for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season to 10 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes. An average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes, so we’ve already had a full season’s worth of activity, with about 45% of the season still to come.”

Make that 11 named storms. Tropical Storm Karl – the 11th tropical storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season has since formed over the northwestern Caribbean Sea.

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

Worker Safety and Health in Hurricanes

The combination of a major East coast hurricane and the Labor Day holiday weekend has us thinking about the thousands of emergency workers who will be helping keep our basic infrastructure like roads, power supply and telecommunications systems up and running as Hurricane Earl blows through.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that many of the hazards occur to workers immediately after the storm has passed, such as during cleanup and utility restoration work. These activities are even more hazardous in areas of flooding, which are often caused by these storms.

According to the National Weather Service, about 70 percent of injuries during hurricanes and tornados result from vehicle accidents, and about 25 percent of injuries result from being caught out in the storm.

OSHA says some of the specific hazards associated with working in hurricanes or tornados include:

  • ï  ® Hazardous driving conditions due to slippery roadways
  • ï  ® Slips and falls due to slippery walkways
  • ï  ® Falling and flying objects such as tree limbs and utility poles
  • ï  ® Electrical hazards from downed power lines or downed objects in contact with power lines
  • ï  ® Falls from heights
  • ï  ® Burns from fires caused by energized line contact or equipment failure
  • ï  ® Exhaustion from working extended shifts
  • ï  ® Dehydration

Check out OSHA resources on disaster recovery hazards  as well as  emergency response resources from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Earl and Coastal Exposure

Five of the top 10 states in terms of the value of  insured coastal property vulnerable to hurricanes are situated in the northeast. Something to bear in mind as Hurricane Earl tracks up the east coast.

New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maine are situated parallel to Earl’s path and 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.

The data from AIR Worldwide also shows significant increases in  insured coastal property values in all five states. Consider the following:

New York: the total value of insured coastal exposure increased by 25.1 percent, from $1.9 trillion in 2004 to $2.3 trillion in 2007.

Massachusetts: the total value of insured coastal exposure increased by 16.7 percent, from $662.4 billion in 2004 to $772.8 billion in 2007.

New Jersey: the total value of insured coastal exposure increased by 26.5 percent, from $505.8 billion in 2004 to $635.5 billion in 2007.

Connecticut: the total value of insured coastal exposure increased by 18.5 percent, from $404.9 billion in 2004 to $479.9 billion in 2007.

Maine: the total value of insured coastal exposure increased by 29.7 percent, from $117.2 billion in 2004 to $146.9 billion in 2007.

And AIR Worldwide expects the total insured value of property in hurricane prone states to double every 10 years.

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

Hurricane Earl: Prepare Now

An important thing to remember about hurricanes is that you don’t have to be in the eye of the storm to feel its impact.

Hurricane Earl is a case in point. While current forecasts indicate that Earl’s center will stay out to sea, storm-related winds, storm surge, rainfall and surf are some of the hazards that U.S. East coast residents will face on land.

That’s why it’s important for those living in areas covered by the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) hurricane watch (currently in effect north of Surf City, North Carolina to Parramore Island, Virginia) to make their storm preparations now.

According to the latest NHC forecast, Earl is currently a Category 3 hurricane (with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph).

However, hurricane force winds extend outward up to 90 miles from Earl’s center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 200 miles, the NHC says.

In fact its wind probability product shows the probability of tropical-storm force winds (winds equal to or exceeding 39mph) in various East coast locations this weekend.

For example, Cape Hatteras, NC, and Nantucket, MA have a greater than 50 percent chance of tropical-storm force winds and New York City and Atlantic City, NJ, a greater than 20 percent chance.

Check out I.I.I. information on disaster preparedness  and hurricane fact files and market share by state.

Check out the NHC graphic below of Earl’s tropical storm force wind speed probabilities:


Earl Becomes Major Hurricane

Hurricane Earl – a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale (sustained winds 111-130mph) – is currently bringing heavy rain and high winds to the northern Lesser Antilles Islands in the Caribbean as it makes its way toward the west-northwest near 15 miles per hour.

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the center of Earl is expected to pass near or over the northernmost Virgin Islands this afternoon and this evening.

A hurricane warning is currently in effect for Anguilla, St. Martin and St. Barts, St. Maarten, Saba and St Eustatius, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques.

Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog reports that once Earl passes the Lesser Antilles, steering currents favor a northwesterly course towards North Carolina:

“History suggests that a storm in Earl’s current location has a 25 percent chance of making landfall on the U.S. East Coast, and Earl’s chances of making a U.S. landfall are probably close to that.

None of the computer models show Earl hitting the U.S., but the storm will likely come uncomfortably close to North Carolina’s Outer Banks and to Massachusetts.†

Here’s the latest forecast track from the NHC:













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

Hurricane Katrina: Five Years On

The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina gives us all pause for thought. Katrina was the costliest hurricane, as well as one of the deadliest, in U.S. history.

Here’s a look at the storm by some of the numbers (sourced from the I.I.I. white paper: Hurricane Katrina: The Five Year Anniversary):

  Ã¯  ® August 29, 2005: the day Hurricane Katrina made its second U.S. landfall as a Category 3 storm in southeast Louisiana.

  Ã¯  ® 1,300-1,500: the estimated number of people who lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

ï  ® $41.1 billion: the amount private sector insurers paid out to policyholders for insured losses across six states.

ï  ® 1.7 million: the number of auto, home and business claims received by insurers.

ï  ® $16.1 billion: what the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) paid out in flood insurance claims from Katrina.

ï  ® $2-$3 billion: the amount private sector insurers paid out in damages to offshore energy facilities.

ï  ® 99 percent: the proportion of the 1.2 million personal property claims settled by the second anniversary of the disaster.

ï  ® Fewer than 2 percent: the share of Katrina homeowners claims in Louisiana and Mississippi that were disputed either through mediation or litigation.