Category Archives: Hurricanes

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.

Hurricane Dorian Update: September 4, 2019

As of early afternoon on September 4 Hurricane Dorian was approximately 100 miles off the east coast of Florida. The National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Dorian would likely move slowly up the Florida coast to Georgia and the Carolinas. While the storm’s intensity has declined since it struck the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, Dorian is now classified as a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 105 mph.

Federal emergency declarations are in effect for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and the governor of Virginia also declared a state of emergency. Dorian is expected to maintain its current intensity for the next few days, and forecasters said that those in Northeast Florida to the Carolinas should be on alert for the possibility of destructive winds and flooding from heavy rains or storm surges.

Dr. Phil Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University and Insurance Information Institute non-resident scholar, is providing regular updates on Dorian via Twitter. He said that the storm has now generated the ninth-most accumulated cyclone energy by an Atlantic hurricane named during August in the satellite era (since 1966).

In a Fox Business interview, Michael Barry, senior vice president and head of media relations and public affairs at the Insurance Information Institute, said,“The industry is very well capitalized and has the financial wherewithal to pay whatever claims comes its way. Of course, right now, we’re looking at the priority of making sure everybody’s customers are safe and sound.”

An Artemis blog post said that even if Dorian remains just offshore, some sources expect a low-single digit billions market loss from the hurricane, just from wind and surge damage along its track. That figure would rise with every mile closer to shore the eye of Hurricane Dorian comes.. Any wobble west onto shore or a full landfall could raise the potential insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) market impact significantly.

Recovery from Dorian in the Bahamas and other islands of the Caribbean that were impacted is expected to be slow because most of the damage caused by the storm is not covered by insurance. In a Wall Street Journal article, Steve Bowen, a meteorologist and head of catastrophe insights at Aon plc, said that commercial businesses have the highest levels of insurance penetration in the Bahamas, while many individuals lack coverage.

Jonny Urwin, an analyst with UBS Group AG, said it estimates that insured damage in the Bahamas could be between $500 million and $1 billion. For the storm overall, UBS projects that the total insured losses from Dorian could be between $5 billion and $10 billion, basing its estimate on a comparison with Hurricane Matthew, which followed a similar path in 2016.

 

The evacuation dilemma: stay or go?

As of Saturday evening, Hurricane Dorian is making a big right hand turn, moving the storm’s threat north.
So now it seems Georgians and South Carolinians are facing the evacuation dilemma: stay or go?
I’ve been there. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew was heading arrow straight for the border between Broward and Miami-Dade counties. We lived a mile north of that.
We boarded the house up as best we could, moved our valuable stuff (a lamppost, a stereo, a rocker we bought on our honeymoon) into the downstairs bathroom, where it would be best protected. And we sat on our couch and cried. We knew what we owned was junk, but it was our junk. It was everything we had, and we knew we would never see it again.
Then we left.
Too many people take the chance and stay behind. Travelers Insurance surveyed people living in hurricane-prone states. The survey found:

  • Men (23%) were more likely than women (11%) to ignore a mandatory evacuation order.
  • Millennials (21%) were more likely to ignore an order than Gen Xers (16%) or Baby Boomers (11%).
  • People in the most cane-prone states (Florida, Louisiana, Texas’ Gulf Coast) were the stubbornest. Georgians, Alabamians, Mississippians, Virginians and North Carolinians were most likely to heed the order.

Back in 1992, my wife and I were lucky. Hurricane Andrew drifted south, and we returned to a home intact.

Even so, we made the right decision, and I’d urge anyone in the same position now to leave. After all, insurance can help you recover the stuff you’ve lost. But no one can replace you.

I.I.I. has some tips for what to do when a hurricane threatens.

Hurricane Dorian headed toward Florida as a Category 4 storm

As of August 28, Hurricane Dorian has been forecast to be a Category 4 hurricane and chances have increased for a direct hit over Labor Day weekend along the coast of Central Florida, causing storm preparations to get off to a frenzied start.

The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) forecast track map showed Dorian making a direct landfall over Volusia and Brevard Counties on September 2 with winds of more than 110 mph, storm surge, high tides and torrential rainfall.

Dorian became a tropical storm on August 24 and strengthened to hurricane status on August 28 near St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Nearly the entire eastern coastline of Florida and the Georgia coastal area are within the potential path of the storm. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a statewide state of emergency.

According to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University and Insurance Information Institute non-resident scholar, Hurricane Dorian has now generated more Accumulated Cyclone Energy than the other four named storms of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season combined. Andrea, Chantal and Erin were very weak, and while Barry became a hurricane, it was relatively short-lived.

Dr. Klotzbach has been tracking Dorian and provided a video update yesterday on its progress.

The I.I.I. offers the following guidance to those who live and work along the east coast of Florida and Georgia:

  • Write down the name and phone number of your insurer and insurance professional and keep this information either in your wallet or purse;
  • Purchase emergency supplies, such as batteries and flashlights;
  • Secure drinking water and non-perishable food; both are essential for all household members in case of prolonged power outages. It is recommended you have one gallon of drinking water per person per day, for up to seven days;
  • Prepare your yard by removing all outdoor furniture, lawn items, planters and other materials that could be picked up by high winds;
  • Fill your car’s gasoline tank because long gas lines and fuel shortages often follow a major weather event;
  • Review your evacuation plan and if you have a pet, your pet’s evacuation plan;
  • Conduct a home inventory; there are many mobile app options which can help you create and store a room-by-room record of your belongings.

 

I.I.I. satellite media tour: Peak hurricane season is upon us

 

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

 

 

The Insurance Information Institute, along with Colorado State University’s atmospheric research scientist Dr. Phil Klotzbach, will be conducting a satellite media tour on Tuesday, August 13 in Miami to talk about what may lie ahead for the remainder of the hurricane season. Nearly 20 media outlets have signed up to participate. We will be talking with news organizations throughout the U.S. about the rising frequency and severity of natural disasters and about what you can do to understand your risks and be ready to face them – both physically and financially.

Hurricane Season ebbs and flows. And, our collective attention spans mostly ebb. Granted, it’s hard to remain engaged with an event that lasts half a year. From June 1 to November 30, you hear the “Get Ready” message from multiple sources, and the human tendency to wait until a storm threat is on the doorstep makes preparedness more frenetic than necessary. Being hurricane ready is a smart goal, and now is an excellent time to put hurricane preparedness on the front burner. Peak hurricane season has arrived.

Mid-August through the end of October historically is when most hurricanes form. Remember HIM? Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall between mid-August and the end of September in 2017. Two Category 4 storms and one Category 5 occurred in a matter of weeks in a season predicted to be slightly above average. Last year’s Hurricane Michael hit in late October. While this year’s latest prediction is for a “near-average season,” hurricane researchers will tell you that it only takes one hurricane making landfall near you to break the law of averages.

Frankly, natural disasters do not ebb and flow; there is no rhythmic pattern to them. Forecasting science is constantly improving, and that means we have a better idea of where hurricanes may be heading. But estimating intensity remains a challenge. You can’t “go with the flow.” Rather, be ready for whatever the wind brings.

The following stations will be broadcasting live interviews (times are Eastern Standard):

8:10 AM: Norfolk, VA, Radio 47  WXGM-FM
8:20 AM: Minneapolis, MN, Radio 15  KWLM-AM
8:40 AM: Raleigh, NC, TV 25 WRAZ FOX
9:10 AM: Albuquerque, NM, Radio 47 KDAZ-FM
9:15 AM: Myrtle Beach, NC, TV 95 WPBF ABC
9:45 AM: Dallas, TX, Radio 5 KKVI-AM/FM
10:25 AM: Norfolk, VA, TV 44 WTKR CBS
12:00 PM: San Diego, CA, Radio 29 KOGO-AM
12:10 PM: Los Angeles, CA, Radio 2 KMET- AM
12:40 PM: St. Louis, MO, TV 21 KTVI FO

These stations are taping segments and should air them over the next few days:

Austin, TX,  TV 40 KEYE CBS
Birmingham, AL,  TV WBRC FOX
Charleston, SC, TV 94  WCIV ABC
Chattanooga, TN, TV 83  WRCB NBC
Chicago, IL, Radio 3  WSRB-FM
Columbus, OH, Radio 34  WSNY-AM
Fort Myers, FL, TV 55  WFTX FOX
Jacksonville, FL, WTLV NBC
Mobile-Pensacola, AL, TV 58  WPMI NBC
Myrtle Beach, SC, TV 95 WPDE ABC
Roanoke, VA, TV 67  WFXR FOX
Roanoke, VA, TV 68  WSET ABC
Savannah, GA, TV 93  WSAV NBC
San Antonio, TX, TV 31  WOAI NBC
Seattle, WA, Radio 12  KORE-FM
Tampa, FL, TV 11 WTSP CBS

The roster of stations is subject to change. If you’re in one of the cities listed, please tune in!

 

Researchers continue to predict a near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season

On Monday August 5th Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane researchers issued a news release in which they continue to predict a near-average 2019 Atlantic hurricane season.

The CSU team is predicting a total of 12 additional named storms to form after August 1st . Of those, six are expected to become hurricanes and two to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater. These forecast numbers do not include Subtropical Storm Andrea and Hurricane Barry which formed prior to August 1.

The scientists, led by I.I.I. non-resident scholar, Dr. Phil Klotzbach, cite both near-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and a weakening El Niño event in the tropical Pacific as the primary reasons for the near-average prediction.

El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form. While El Niño has weakened over the past several months, they anticipate that lingering warming in the central tropical Pacific should be a slight inhibiting factor for the remainder of the hurricane season.

The tropical Atlantic currently has near average sea surface temperatures. A warmer tropical Atlantic provides more fuel for developing tropical cyclones. Increased tropical Atlantic warmth is also associated with moister air and a more unstable atmosphere, both of which foster organized thunderstorm activity necessary for hurricane development. Vertical wind shear was slightly stronger than normal across the Caribbean in July. This tends to be associated with quieter Atlantic hurricane seasons.

The team based this forecast on 40 years of historical data that include Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.

So far, the 2019 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1990, 1992, 2012 and 2014. “1992 and 2014 had below-average Atlantic hurricane activity, 1990 had near-average hurricane activity, and 2012 had above-average Atlantic hurricane activity.” said Dr. Klotzbach.

The full forecast report is available here.

Updated 2019 Atlantic hurricane forecast

Dr. Phil Klotzbach, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University (CSU), and his team released their updated forecast for the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane season which began on June 1 and continues through November 30.

The team adjusted their original forecast which predicted a slightly below average season, and now call for an average season. The new estimate calls for about 6 hurricanes (average is 6.4), 14 named storms (average is 12.1), 55 named storm days (average is 59.4), 20 hurricane days (average is 24.2), 2 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.7) and 5 major hurricane days (average is 6.2). These numbers include Subtropical Storm Andrea which formed in May.

“We …believe that 2019 will have approximately average activity. There remains considerable uncertainty as to whether El Niño conditions will persist through the Atlantic hurricane season. The tropical Atlantic has warmed slightly faster than normal over the past few weeks and now has near-average sea surface temperatures. We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” said Dr. Klotzbach.

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.

Dr. Phil Klotzbach is a non-resident scholar at the Insurance Information Institute.

I.I.I. Non-Resident Scholar: 2019 hurricane season projected to be slightly below-average

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season activity is projected to be slightly below-average, according to I.I.I. non-resident scholar Dr. Phil Klotzbach.

Dr. Klotzbach, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University (CSU), and his team are forecasting 13 named storms, five hurricanes, and two major hurricanes for the year.

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.

A slower 2019 season might sound like welcome news after the 2018 Atlantic season saw 15 named storms, with eight of them becoming hurricanes (two major). However, major hurricanes can be potentially catastrophic, whether they hit during a relatively quiet year or not.

Sean Kevelighan, the I.I.I.’s CEO, stressed that homeowners and businesses need to prepare for the upcoming season. “For one, make sure you have insurance; especially for homeowners, you need coverage for both wind and flooding. Remember, these are two different policies, as flood is primarily offered via the National Flood Insurance Program. Secondly, take steps to ensure your home is fortified for resilience, such as having roof tie-downs and a good drainage system. And, finally, take inventory of your belongings as well as map out a safe evacuation route. Americans far too often bet on the storm not hitting them, but the unfortunate truth lies in historical data which shows virtually every mile of our Gulf and Eastern coastlands have been hit at one point or another.”

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

The 2018 Hurricane Season: A Retrospective

Hurricane Michael

The 2018 hurricane season officially ended on November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) storm counts for the season were: 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes. Two of these were “major” hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5).

To put that into perspective, the average hurricane season has 12 named storms, including six hurricanes, of which three are major. That makes 2018 a little worse than a “normal” year, and well within NOAA’s predictions before the start of the season on June 1.

Fortunately, these numbers are down from the especially destructive 2017 season, which included the so-called “HIM” storms (Harvey, Irma, and Maria). In 2017 there were 17 named storms, including 10 hurricanes, of which six were major.

But that is little comfort to the people affected by the two major hurricanes, Florence and Michael.

Hurricane Florence: Florence reached Category 4 status on September 10, making landfall on September 14 in North Carolina as a Category 1. Because the storm moved very slowly, Florence dumped at least 30 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina, setting a record in the state for rain from a hurricane.

Catastrophe modelers have estimated that insured losses from Hurricane Florence could range from $2.5 billion to $5.0 billion, excluding National Flood Insurance Program losses. Worryingly, it’s been estimated that somewhere between 70 percent and 85 percent of flood losses are uninsured (get flood insurance, everybody).

Hurricane Michael: Michael became a strong Category 4 storm on October 10 and made landfall shortly afterward in the Florida panhandle. The storm registered wind speeds just under Category 5-level speeds, making Michael perhaps the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Florida panhandle.

Catastrophe modelers estimated that insured losses from Hurricane Michael could range from $6 billion to $10 billion.

(The loss numbers for both hurricanes are subject to change, since losses are still being adjusted and paid out.)

In comparison, the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO estimates that insured losses from Hurricane Harvey will top $14 billion. PCS estimates that insured losses from Hurricane Irma will be more than $20 billion.

At a high level, the 2018 season was bad – but compared to last year, it could also have been a whole lot worse. Not that that’s any comfort to people who lost homes or family members. Hopefully 2019 will be calmer.

For more information on the 2018 season, see the I.I.I.’s Facts + Statistics: Hurricanes page. And again, get flood insurance.