Category Archives: Hurricanes

Hurricanes Don’t Just Affect Coasts; Experts Say: “Get Flood Insurance”

With the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season activity expected to be “well above average” in intensity; three named storms having formed already; and Tropical Depression Cristobal bringing flooding rains and powerful winds from the South to the Midwest as it made landfall in Louisiana, preparedness should be on the minds of everyone who could be affected – and that means more than just people in coastal states.

Cristobal’s low pressure area is forecast to move from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Midwest – just ahead of a cold front that will eventually absorb Cristobal’s remnants as it moves into southeastern Canada, according to Weather.com: “The combination of deep, tropical moisture from Cristobal and the cold front will wring out heavy rain along a swath from the lower Mississippi Valley into the Midwest. Strong winds will also develop in the Midwest and Great Lakes from this setup.”

If Cristobal remains a tropical depression when it crosses into Wisconsin, it would be the first tropical depression on record in the state, according to the National Weather Service in Milwaukee.

“Inland flooding has resulted in more deaths in the past 30 years from hurricanes and tropical storms in the U.S. than any other threat,” said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. “Though wind speeds and storm surge are important, and get a lot of the headlines, flash flooding from intense rainfall associated with the storm’s rainbands impact far more people and stretch over a much larger area.”

About 90 percent of all natural disasters in the U.S involve flooding. This is why experts like Dan Kaniewski – managing director for public sector innovation at Marsh & McLennan and former deputy administrator for resilience at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – strenuously urge everyone to buy flood insurance.

If it can rain, it can flood

“Any home can flood,” Kaniewski said in a recent Triple-I webinar. “Even if you’re well outside a floodplain…. Get flood insurance. Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter or a business – get flood insurance. It’s not included in your homeowners policy, and most people don’t understand that.”

Dr. Rick Knabb – on-air hurricane expert for the Weather Channel, speaking at Triple-I’s 2019 Joint Industry Forum – was similarly emphatic:

“If it can rain where you live,” he said, “it can flood where you live.”

He recounted buying a new home, asking his agent about flood insurance, and being told, “You don’t need it.”

“I told him, ‘Get it for me anyway,’” Knabb said.

Flood insurance purchase rates too low

As the Triple-I blog previously reported, 2019 was the second-wettest year on record across the continental U.S., yet flood insurance purchase rates remain low. To illustrate the difference between having and not having flood insurance, Kaniewski described two scenarios related to 2017’s devastating Hurricane Harvey.

“The average [FEMA] payout for the uninsured homeowner in the Houston area was about $3,000,” Kaniewski said. “But if you were proactive and took out a relatively low-cost flood insurance policy…you would have received not $3,000 but $110,000. You’re not going to recover on $3,000, but with $110,000, you’d be well on the path to recovery.”

Unfortunately, he said, even inside designated floodplains, “two-thirds of homeowners do not have flood insurance.”

2020 Atlantic hurricane season will be well above average, according to updated Colorado State forecast

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season activity is projected to be “well above average,” according to Triple-I non-resident scholar Dr. Phil Klotzbach.

Dr. Klotzbach, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University (CSU), and his team issued an updated forecast on June 4. They project the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season will have 19 named storms (including the storms that already formed), 9 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes.

Probabilities for at least one major (category 3-4-5) hurricane landfall on each of the following coastal areas are:

1) Entire continental U.S. coastline – 70 percent (average for last century is 52 percent)

2) U.S. East Coast, including Peninsula Florida – 46 percent (average for last century is 31 percent)

3) Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville – 45 percent (average for last century is 30 percent)

The probability for at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean (10-20°n, 88-60°w) is 59 percent (average for last century is 42 percent).

An early forecast had predicted eight hurricanes.  A typical year has 12 named storms and six hurricanes — three of them major. Major hurricanes are defined as Category 3, 4, and 5 storms, where wind speeds reach at least 111 miles per hour.

The active 2020 season is partly due to a warmer than normal eastern Atlantic, which is typically associated with more active Atlantic hurricane seasons. Tropical Storms Arthur, Bertha and Cristobal have already formed in the Atlantic as of June 2nd.

“It is important to recognize that these forecasts are not perfect,” said Klotzbach. And even when correct “we can’t say when or where these storms are going to track or if a significant hurricane is going to make landfall.”

“The general public needs to remember that it only takes one storm to make this an active season for you. So now is the time to get the hurricane preparedness kit together so that you will be ready when and if storms threaten,” he concluded.

The full forecast is available here.

Preparedness tips*

  • Take steps to mitigate risks for your home and business – make simple repairs/clean-up of property.
  • Gather emergency supplies (have a minimum seven days of non-perishable food, one gallon of drinking water per person per day, and medications for all family members).
  • Take an inventory of your personal property – photos of possessions will make it much easier to file an insurance claim after the storm.
  • Review your homeowners, auto and business insurance coverage with your insurance professional to ensure you have appropriate coverage in case of loss.
  • If you don’t already have it, ask your insurance professional about adding flood coverage to your home or business policy. Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies and ninety percent of natural disasters involve flooding. You don’t need to live in a flood zone to incur flood damage from a storm.
  • Prepare evacuation routes well ahead of time. Make sure you know how to quickly and safely escape your area if emergency management officials issue evacuation orders.
  • Don’t forget about your pets. When evacuating, many residents leave their pets behind because they have no place to take them. Make sure your local shelters will accept pets and gather information on hotels and motels that allow pets in guest rooms.

*Preparedness tips courtesy of National Hurricane Conference.

Triple-I has hurricane facts and statistics here.

NOAA predicts above normal 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an above-normal hurricane season in terms of the total number of storms. NOAA’s  2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook  calls for 13-19 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes.

An early forecast by Colorado State University predicted 16 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes for the year, with above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean. The Colorado State team, led by Triple-I non-resident scholar Dr. Phil Klotzbach, will have an updated forecast on June 4.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.

Hurricane preparedness during the COVID-19 pandemic

This year the COVID-19 pandemic adds a layer of difficulty to hurricane preparedness, particularly when it comes to evacuation plans. Florida state officials anticipate the challenge of preparing shelters with social distancing measures in place and have asked FEMA for guidance. New Orleans is advising residents to plan to include hand sanitizer and face coverings in their emergency home kits and go-bags.

As an alternative to emergency shelters, this P/C 360 article suggests that those who are able to do so should plan to stay with friends or relatives or secure a hotel room at least 100 miles inland from their home. Hurricanes can strike with little advance warning so it’s vital to prepare.

The CDC has issued the following prep tips:

  • Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
  • Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water, and medicine supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies; however, that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.
  • Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery or call in your prescription ahead of time and use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if available.
  • Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including potential shelters for your pets.
  • If you need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer or bar or liquid soap if not available, and two cloth face coverings for each person. Face covers should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet, about 2 arms’ length, from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
  • If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Useful links

Hurricane preparedness tips and resources

State Hurricane Fact Sheets

Hurricanes Facts & Statistics

National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2020

The start of what may be an “above-normal” 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is a month away and homeowners, renters, and business owners are advised to prepare now.

“As much as we are living today with the unimaginable impact of COVID-19, we must remind residents along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to remember it takes only one hurricane or tropical storm to ravage communities and to shatter lives,” said Sean Kevelighan, CEO, Triple-I. “During National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 3-9), we encourage residents to take a moment to ensure you have adequate financial protection for your property and possessions while also taking steps to make your home or business is more resilient to wind and water. Since we are all needing to stay home more, it’s even more important to make ourselves more resilient to natural catastrophes like hurricanes.”

The Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and continues through Nov. 30.

Review Your Insurance Coverage
Make sure you have the right type – and amount – of property insurance. The Triple-I recommends you conduct an annual insurance review of your policy(ies) with your insurance professional.

Standard homeowners insurance covers the structure of your house for disasters such as hurricanes and windstorms, along with a host of other disasters. It is important to understand the elements that might affect your insurance payout after a hurricane and adjust your policies accordingly.

At the very least, review the declarations page of your policy. This one-page information sheet offers details on how much coverage you have, your deductibles and insights into how a claim will be paid.

“You should ask your insurance professional if you have the right amount of insurance coverage to rebuild or repair your home, to replace its contents, and to cover temporary living expenses if your property is uninhabitable,” Kevelighan said. “You should also ask about flood insurance, which is separate and additional to traditional homeowners and small business insurance. Ninety percent of natural disasters involve flooding.”

Flood insurance, which is a separate policy from your property coverage, is offered through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and several private insurers.

Another common exclusion from a standard homeowners policy is sewer backup (also not covered by flood insurance). Backed up sewers can cause thousands of dollars of damage to floors, electrical systems, walls, furniture and other belongings. Sewer backup insurance is especially beneficial in hurricane-prone areas.

Protect Your Vehicles

Comprehensive auto, which is an optional coverage, protects your vehicle against theft and damage caused by an incident other than a collision, including fire, flood, vandalism, hail, falling rocks or trees, and other hazards.

Make Sure Your Possessions are Adequately Protected
Imagine the cost of repurchasing all your furniture, clothing and other personal possessions after a hurricane. Whether you have homeowners insurance or renters insurance, your policy provides protection against loss or damage due to a hurricane.
Creating an inventory of your belongings and their value will make it easy to see if you are sufficiently insured for either replacement cost or cash value of the items. When you create a photo or video catalog of your home’s possessions, it will also help expedite the insurance claims process if you sustain damage from a storm.

Make Your Property More Resilient
Invest in items that will harden your property against wind damage, such as a wind-rated garage door and storm shutters. Triple-I also recommends you have your roof inspected annually by a licensed and bonded contractor to make sure it will hold up to high winds and torrential rains.

Other hurricane season preparation tips from Triple-I include:

  • Preparing a hurricane emergency kit with a minimum two-week supply of essential items such as non-perishable food, drinking water and medications for every family member.
  • Creating an evacuation plan well before the first storm warnings are issued.

Related links

Facts and Statistics: Hurricanes
Hurricane Season Insurance Guide
How to Prepare for Hurricane Season
What to do When a Hurricane Threatens
Video: Create a Home Inventory

2020 Hurricane Season Projected to Be “Above Normal”

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season activity is projected to be “above normal,” according to Triple-I non-resident scholar Dr. Phil Klotzbach.

Dr. Klotzbach, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University (CSU), and his team have issued an early forecast of 16 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes for the year, with above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.

A typical year has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. Major hurricanes are defined as Category 3, 4, and 5 storms, where wind speeds reach at least 111 miles per hour.

The forecast is based partly on the fact that El Niño conditions are unlikely this summer and fall.

“El Niño is warmer-than-normal water in the Central and Eastern Tropical Pacific,” Dr. Klotzbach said. “When it occurs, it tends to increase upper-level westerly winds that tear apart hurricanes when the try to develop.”

The chart below shows 2020 hurricane probabilities for 18 coastal states.

A lot can change between now and the peak of the season though, so an updated forecast will be issued on June 4.

As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.

For the full forecast report click here: 
https://tropical.colostate.edu/media/sites/111/2020/04/2020-04.pdf

For information on hurricane-proofing your home and business, check out the following:

Flood Policy Renewal Period Extended

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it is extending the grace period to renew flood insurance policies from 30 days to 120 days to help policyholders who may be experiencing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic. The extension applies to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies with an expiration date between February 13 and June 15, 2020.

Said David Maurstad, the FEMA administrator who oversees the NFIP, “We want to make sure that policyholders don’t have to worry that their policy will lapse during the spring flood season or into the start of hurricane season.”

A Better Tool to Predict Impact of Hurricanes? 


Minimum sea level pressure can predict the scope of a storm’s  damage — including from storm surge, not just wind — and be more accurately measured in real time.

The more accurately experts can predict an impending storm’s impact, the better prepared individuals, communities, and businesses can be to soften the blow and bounce back. A recent paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society suggests an underutilized tool may be better at predicting hurricane damage than the traditionally used “maximum sustained wind speed.”

Atlantic hurricanes have a long history of financial impact. During 2017-18, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Michael combined to cause more than $345 billion (U.S.) in direct economic damage.  The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale categorizes only the hurricane wind threat – not the totality of impacts, including storm surge and rainfall.

According to the paper,  several scales have been proposed to replace Saffir-Simpson, but most aren’t easily calculated in real time, nor can they be reliably calculated historically. For example, “storm wind radius” datasets extend back only about 30 years. 

Minimum sea level pressure (MSLP), the paper finds, is a better predictor of the scope of a storm’s  damage and can be more accurately measured in real time, “making it an ideal quantity for evaluating a hurricane’s potential damage.”

MSLP is the lowest pressure recorded in a hurricane.  It occurs at the center of the storm and is part of the large-scale structure of a hurricane’s vortex. Because winds are generated by differences in  barometric pressure between the hurricane’s eye and its perimeter, lower pressure is typically associated with stronger winds.  Also, if two hurricanes have the same wind speed, the one with the lower pressure typically will cover a greater area, potentially posing greater storm surge risk.

“With aircraft reconnaissance, MSLP can be reliably calculated,” the paper says. It’s also much easier to measure at landfall than is maximum sustained wind speed.

“Barometers are among the simplest meteorological instruments and will usually operate in a wide range of conditions,” the report says. Anemometers, which measure wind speed, “are prone to mechanical failure…precisely when they matter most.”

The paper was authored by Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Dr. Philip J. Klotzbach — a Triple-I non-resident scholar — along with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), North Carolina State University, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and insurance broker Aon.


2019 Hurricane Season: “Slightly Above Average”

Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science released a summary of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season today.

Seven of the named storms lasted 24 hours or less – the most on record with such short longevity.

The 2019 season yielded 18 named storms, six of which became hurricanes, including three major ones (Category 3 or higher, with maximum sustained winds of at least 111 mph). While 18 is quite a bit more than the seasonal average of 12 , seven of the named storms lasted 24 hours or less – the most on record with such short longevity.

“The season ended up slightly above average when looking at integrated metrics, such as accumulated cyclone energy, that account for frequency, intensity and duration of storms,” said Dr. Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science, non-resident scholar at the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), and lead author of the report. “We generally forecast a near-average season, so we slightly under-predicted overall levels of Atlantic hurricane activity.”

Dorian: most destructive

Of the three major hurricanes, Dorian was the most destructive. Forming in late August, it devastated the northwestern Bahamas at Category 5 intensity, causing over 60 fatalities and economic losses that could be as much as $7 billion, according to a recent Artemis report. It then made landfall near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane and later caused significant damage in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Insurance broker Aon estimates the economic value of the damage Dorian inflicted on the United States at approximately $1.2 billion.

Hurricane Humberto, forming in September, caused much less damage than Dorian, as it remained hundreds of miles offshore. Nevertheless, it caused large swells across the U.S. East Coast and resulted in one fatality when a man drowned due to a rip current in North Carolina. Another man was reported missing in St. Augustine, Florida after the storm. Bermuda officials reported that no fatalities occurred on the island during Humberto’s passage.

Hurricane Lorenzo became a Category 5 hurricane in the central subtropical Atlantic – the farthest east Cat 5 Atlantic formation on record. It generated 49-foot waves, with an occasional rogue wave nearing 100 feet, sending swells to both sides of the Atlantic. Lorenzo caused 10 fatalities.

She nearly didn’t get a name

The most destructive storm to hit the continental United States in the 2019 season almost didn’t have a name. Two hours before dumping 40 inches of rain in some parts of Texas, Tropical Storm Imelda was just “a tropical depression,” Dr. Klotzbach said. Imelda was upgraded to a named storm 90 minutes before landfall, but it proceeded to deluge southeast Texas, causing at least $2 billion in economic damage and at least five deaths, according to Aon.

“From a wind perspective, Imelda was practically a non-event,” Dr. Klotzbach continued. “But the rain it brought made it the most expensive tropical cyclone to hit the United States during the 2019 season.”

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and ends officially on November 30. Colorado State’s full summary and verification report is available here.

 

Hurricane Michael insured losses reach $7.4 billion

Insured losses associated with 2018’s Hurricane Michael reached almost $7.44 billion, according to a recent Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (FOIR) update. The losses consist of residential and commercial property, private flood and business interruption insurance, and miscellaneous coverages. There were 149,773 claims made, and 89 percent of them were closed.

Hurricane Michael became a Category 5 storm on October 10, 2018, and made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, in the Florida Panhandle. It was the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Florida Panhandle and the second known Category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf Coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was the first Category 5 storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

An Artemis analysis of the FOIR report says that based on the run-rate of costs per claim (around $65,890 per claim), another $1 billion could be added to the total before every claim is closed down and that many of the claims remaining open will be among the more costly. Fewer than 69 percent of commercial property claims are closed, compared to almost 89 percent of residential. Business interruption claims are also slow to close and therefore are likely to increase the total.

 

Managing your insurance claim after disaster

Lynne McChristian

By Lynne McChristian, I.I.I. Media Spokesperson and Non-resident Scholar 

If Hurricane Dorian left its imprint on your home or business, you’ve likely already started the claims process with a call to your insurer. Knowing what happens next will be helpful as the recovery begins.

The insurance claims process is indeed a process. There are steps involved and requirements from both the policyholder and the insurance company. Most people have never had to file an insurance claim of any sort. And if they had, it might have been an automobile accident claim, which can be far less complex that one that involves damage to something as large and costly as a home and whatever is inside it.

After a widespread natural disaster, insurers take a triage approach to claims handling, and that means those people who suffered the most damaging losses are seen first. Obviously, everyone with damage wants to be seen promptly, yet taking care of people in order of damage is what serves those most in need.

After you report a claim, someone will be sent out to appraise the damage. You might have more than one insurance claims professional visit, as there is separate expertise involved – depending on the damage you reported. You might have someone look at the structure, an additional claims adjuster for the contents damage, and then a flood damage claims expert visit your property, if you have flood insurance protection. Some of these insurance professionals may work directly for your insurer, while others are hired as independent contractors to give your claim faster attention. Tip: Get a business card and cellphone number for every person who appraises the damage, so you can follow up.

If your home is so badly damaged that you cannot live in it, you may get a check on the spot from your claims adjuster. This is not a settlement check. It is coverage that is part of a standard homeowners policy, called Additional Living Expense. It covers the extra expenses you’ll have if you must live elsewhere while your home is repaired or rebuilt.

Above all else, keep organized and retain all your receipts. Temporary repairs you made to prevent further damage are covered under your policy. You will want to keep the process rolling to return to normal – and insurers want that, too.

 

Nearly 80 percent of homeowners in coastal Carolinas uninsured for flood

As Hurricane Dorian churns northward off the coast of South Carolina as a Category 2 storm, the National Hurricane Center continues to forecast dangerous storm surge conditions through the Carolinas, up the coast into Virginia, as of 11 a.m. September 5.

I.I.I. infographic based on Aon estimates of NFIP data

Using National Flood Insurance Program policy takeup rates as estimated by Aon, the six coastal counties in South Carolina average a 28 percent flood insurance takeup rate, compared to a 16 percent takeup rate for the 21 coastal counties in North Carolina. Dare County in North Carolina had the highest takeup rate of both states, with 61 percent, and Hertford County had the lowest in the two states, at 1.0 percent. Overall South Carolina has 204,372 total policies in force, with 2,284,722 housing units statewide. North Carolina has 132,983 policies in force for 4,622,575 housing units statewide.

The graphic below shows the probability of storm-induced flooding for the Carolina coast as of September 5 at 2 p.m. eastern.
For up-to-date flood probability click here.

USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal

More flood insurance facts and statistics from the I.I.I. are available here.