Category Archives: 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:

0901EarlTSForceWinds

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:

0830HurrEarl

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

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.

Danielle: Hurricane Status in 24 Hours

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said early this morning that Tropical Storm Danielle is strengthening and likely to become a hurricane within the next 24 hours.

The fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season is currently located about 850 miles west of the Cape Verde islands with maximum sustained winds of about 60 miles per hour.

On its current track Danielle appears to be heading in a northwest direction toward Bermuda.

Here’s the latest forecast track from the NHC:

0823TSDanielle

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Of course much could change before Danielle even comes close to the east coast of the United States. However, it’s worth noting that at least one forecaster – WSI Corp – has warned that the Northeastern U.S. faces an increased risk of hurricane landfall this season.

Meanwhile, Bermuda is no stranger to hurricanes.

Hurricane Fabian,  which  hit Bermuda with 120 mph winds in early September 2003 as a Category 3 hurricane, was the strongest hurricane to hit the island since Hurricane Arlene in 1963.

Fabian caused four deaths on the island  and significant property damage as it battered  Bermuda with a  reported storm surge of 10ft. NHC estimates Fabian caused at least $300 million property damage in Bermuda.

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

Gulf Coast Building Codes Inadequate

Inadequate building codes in two Gulf coast states devastated by Hurricane Katrina could leave new and rebuilt properties at risk of future damage, according to a new study from the Institute  for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).

  The warning comes just ahead of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the most costly insured disaster in United States history, which caused more than $41 billion in insured damage and 1.7 million claims across six states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia).

In its analysis of pre- and post-Katrina building codes, IBHS found that while there have been positive steps taken in a number of coastal communities and counties in Alabama and Mississippi, only Louisiana took steps to adopt and enforce a statewide building code after Katrina struck.

IBHS researchers wrote:

There is no question that no one wants a repeat performance of this devastating event that left at least 1,300 people dead. Yet, the steps taken to improve the quality of the building stock, whether through rebuilding or new construction, call into question the commitment of some key stakeholders to ensuring that past mistakes are not repeated.†

Check out the Disaster Safety blog for more on the IBHS analysis. Check out IBHS information on building codes here.

For more information on Hurricane Katrina and insurance issues, check out a new white paper from the I.I.I., Hurricane Katrina: The Five Year Anniversary.

Tropical Weather Outlook

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) are monitoring two low pressure systems, one located over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico less than 100 miles from the southwest coast of the Florida peninsula  and another about 820 miles east-northeast of the Leeward Islands.

The NHC gives  each system a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.

In its latest forecast for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather  Service has reiterated its call for a very active season.

NOAA estimates a 70 percent probability of: 14-20 named storms; 8-12 hurricanes, of which 4-6 could be major hurricanes.

NOAA said atmospheric and oceanic conditions now in place  over the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea are very conducive to hurricane formation and it expects these conditions to persist through the season’s peak months of August to October.

So far this season three storms have formed in the Atlantic, including the first June hurricane (Hurricane Alex) to form in more than a decade.

Check out the latest  NHC graphic below:

0810AtlTCActivity

  

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

Alex Strengthens

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is warning that a dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 3 to 5 feet above ground level along the immediate coast near and to the north of where the center of Alex makes landfall.

The warning came as the NHC said that Alex — the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season — is moving faster to the north-northwest and is likely to become a hurricane later today:

The surge could penetrate inland as far as several miles from the shore with depth generally decreasing as the water moves inland. Near the coast†¦the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.†

Earlier this morning, the NHC said Alex was about 380 miles south east of Brownsville, Texas and moving NNW at 12 mph, with maximum sustained winds near 70 miles per hour.

The NHC also said Alex is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches over portions of northeastern Mexico and southern Texas during the next few days and these rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.

A glance at the latest track for Alex looks a lot like 2008’s Hurricane Dolly that made landfall as a Category 1 storm in extreme southern Texas in July of that year.

Dolly caused significant wind and flood damage and resulted in federal disaster declarations in 15 Texas counties. ISO’s Property Claim Services unit put the insured losses from Dolly at $525 million in 2008 dollars.

The costliest hurricane to hit Texas in recent years was Hurricane Ike in 2008. Insured property damage caused by Ike in Texas totaled $9.8 billion, according to ISO. Check out the I.I.I. Texas hurricane fact file for more information.