Tag Archives: Thunderstorms

Swiss Re: May Thunderstorms Most Costly Insured Nat Cat In H1 2014

Natural catastrophe events in the United States accounted for three of the five most costly insured catastrophe losses in the first half of 2014, according to just-released Swiss Re sigma estimates.

In mid-May, a spate of severe storms and hail hit many parts of the U.S.   over a five-day period, generating insured losses of $2.6 billion. Harsh spring weather also triggered thunderstorms and tornadoes, some of which caused insured claims of $1.1 billion.

The Polar Vortex in the U.S. in January also led to a long period of heavy snowfall and very cold temperatures in the east and southern states such as Mississippi and Georgia, resulting in combined insured losses of $1.7 billion.

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These three events contributed $5.4 billion of the $19 billion in natural catastrophe-related insured losses covered by the global insurance industry in the first half of 2014, according to sigma estimates.

The $19 billion was 10 percent down from the $21 billion covered by insurers for natural catastrophe events in the first half of 2013. It was also below the average first-half year loss of the previous 10 years ($23 billion). Man-made disasters added $2 billion in insured losses in the first half of 2014, sigma reports.

The $21 billion in insured losses from disaster events in the first half of 2014 was 16 percent lower than the $25 billion generated in the first half of 2013, and lower than the average first-half year loss of the previous 10 years ($27 billion).

Total economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters reached $44 billion in the first half of 2014, according to sigma estimates.

More than 4,700 lives were lost as a result of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in the first half of 2014.

May Thunderstorm Events: $2 Billion+ Insured Losses

Multiple outbreaks of severe weather led to a costly month for insurers in the United States in May,  as thunderstorm events continued to dominate the catastrophe record.

According to the latest Global Catastrophe Recap report by Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting, no fewer than four stretches of severe weather affected the U.S. during the month of May.

Aggregate insured losses exceeded $2.2 billion and overall economic losses were at least $3.5 billion, with large hail and damaging winds the primary driver of the thunderstorm-related costs, Impact Forecasting reports.

The costliest stretch occurred during a five-day period (May 18-23) which saw damage incurred in parts of the Midwest, Plains, Rockies, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, including the major metropolitan areas of Chicago, IL and Denver, CO.

According to Impact Forecasting’s report, baseball-sized hail and straight-line winds gusting in excess of 70 mph (110 kph) were recorded that severely affected residential, commercial and auto interests. Total economic losses were estimated at $2.5 billion, with insurers reporting losses minimally at $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, the combination of excessive heat, extreme drought conditions, low relative humidity and gusty winds led to dozens of wildfires across parts of the Texas Panhandle and Southern California, leaving two dead.

Overall fire costs/damages from the two states approached $100 million, according to Impact Forecasting.

In Texas the most significant fire was in Hutchinson Country, where at least 225 homes and 143 unoccupied structures were damaged or destroyed.

In California, at least 14 fires were ignited in the greater San Diego metropolitan region, including the Poinsettia Fire that destroyed eight homes, an 18-unit condominium complex, and two commercial buildings.

The report adds that through the end of May, tornado activity in the U.S. remained in the bottom 25th percentile of all years dating to the early 1950s.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on thunderstorms.

Economic Impact of April Thunderstorms

If you haven’t read it already, the April edition of the Global Catastrophe Recap Report by Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting puts some numbers around the thunderstorm events that devastated parts of the United States last month.

According to the report, severe weather and flash flooding that caused extensive damage across more than 20 states in April will likely be the first billion-dollar economic loss event of 2014 attributed to convective thunderstorms.

At least 39 people were killed and 250 injured amid nearly 70 confirmed tornado touch-downs, which occurred across more than 20 states in the Plains, Mississippi Valley, Southeast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic.

Economic losses are set to exceed $1 billion, with insured losses minimally in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Impact Forecasting reports.

Another U.S. severe weather outbreak in April led to major damage in parts of the Plains, Midwest and the Mississippi Valley. The most significant damage was due to hail, as hailstones the size of softballs struck the Denton, Texas metro region.

Total economic losses were estimated at $950 million, with insured losses in excess of $650 million, according to the report.

In a press release Adama Podlaha, head of Impact Forecasting, says:

The recent outbreaks of tornadoes, large hail and damaging straight-line winds in the United States have emphasized the importance of historical data analysis for insurers and reinsurers when trying to forecast future losses.†

If you’re wondering how many convective thunderstorm events made the list of significant natural catastrophes in 2013, take a look at this slide from a presentation made by I.I.I. president Dr. Robert Hartwig at the National Tornado Summit in February.

It shows that thunderstorms accounted for  six of the  nine significant natural catastrophe events with $1 billion economic loss and/or 50 fatalities in 2013.

Storm Reports Reflect Tornado Toll

A major severe weather outbreak continues  across parts of the southern and eastern U.S.  today,  as insurers  rush to multiple states hit Sunday and Monday by a total of more than 90 tornadoes, some of which caused fatalities.

Here are  the NOAA Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC) storm reports for Sunday, April 27 and Monday, April 28:

A fact that often goes unreported is that tornadoes are among the largest causes of insured losses in any given year, accounting for 36 percent of all insured losses since 1983, according to the I.I.I.

Increasingly dense suburban development across the U.S. is putting more people and property in areas at risk  of tornadoes than ever before.

Eighty percent of U.S. natural disaster related insurance claims payouts in 2013 were attributable to tornadoes and severe thunderstorms—$10.27 billion out of total estimate of $12.79 billion, according to remarks made in February 2014 by I.I.I. president Robert Hartwig, at the National Tornado Summit  in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

2013 Nat Cat Losses Below Average

Of the five costliest natural catastrophes for  the insurance industry  in 2013, only  two were U.S. events, though neither ranked first or second, according to Munich Re.

In its 2013 Natural Catastrophe Year-in-Review Webinar jointly presented with the I.I.I., Munich Re noted that hailstorms in Germany in July actually caused the highest insured losses of the year. This was also the insurance industry’s most expensive hail event in German history, costing $4.8 billion in overall  economic losses,  of which  $3.7 billion was insured.

Flooding in Europe in June was the  second most costly natural catastrophe for the insurance industry in 2013, causing insured losses of $3 billion, though overall economic losses from this event totaled $15.2 billion, making it the costliest natural catastrophe of the year in terms of economic losses.

With not a single storm of hurricane strength reaching the U.S. mainland during a quiet Atlantic hurricane season, the most serious natural catastrophe in the U.S. in 2013 was a series of  very severe tornadoes  in Oklahoma, according to Munich Re.

On May 21 a  tornado of the highest category (five), with wind speeds over 300km/h devastated the suburb of Moore. The overall economic loss resulting from the squall line totaled $3.1 billion, of which $1.8 billion was insured. This was the third most costly natural catastrophe for insurers in 2013.

In a year in which insured losses from natural catastrophes in the U.S. totaled $12.8 billion – far below the 2000 to 2012 average loss of $29.4 billion (in 2013 dollars), it’s interesting to note that insured losses from thunderstorm events exceeded $10 billion, despite the lowest observed tornado count in a decade.

Munich Re  reported that average insured thunderstorm losses have increased sevenfold since 1980.

Overall, Munich Re said economic losses from natural catastrophes worldwide in 2013 amounted to around $125 billion and insured losses  around $31 billion. These were both below the 10-year averages of $184 billion and $56 billion, respectively.

While floods and hailstorms caused double-digit billion-dollar losses in central Europe, in the Philippines one of the strongest cyclones in history, Supertyphoon Haiyan, resulted in a human catastrophe with over 6,000 fatalities, Munich Re added.

All Hail the Data

A report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has revealed that insurance claims resulting from hailstorm damage in the United States increased by a whopping 84 percent from 2010 to 2012.

In 2010, there were 467,602 hail damage claims filed, but by 2012 that number had  jumped  to 861,597.

All told, over two million hail damage claims were processed from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012, the NICB said.

Perhaps not surprisingly the top five states generating hail damage claims during this period were Texas (320,823); Missouri (138,857); Kansas (126,490); Colorado (118,118) and Oklahoma (114,168).

“Personal Property Homeowners† (PPHO) was the policy type most affected by hail loss claims, with 1.3 million, or 64 percent of the total number of hail loss claims between 2010 and 2012.

On average, PPHO policies were represented more than twice as often as the next most popular policy type, personal automobile.

NICB points out that most of the hail loss claims occurred in the spring and summer months, between March and July, likely due to increased numbers of thunderstorms during this period.

So far, large hail reports posted to NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center site in 2013 appear to show that hailstorm activity is down from 2012. See below:

 

While the NICB report focuses just on hail claims, it’s worth adding that severe thunderstorms in the U.S., including tornadoes, resulted in $14.9 billion in insured losses in 2012, more than $25 billion in insured losses in 2011, and $9.5 billion in insured losses in 2010, according to Munich Re.

In the first-half of 2013, insured losses from thunderstorm events exceeded $6 billion, Munich Re said.

New Jersey Tornado

Reports of a “small tornado† in New Jersey hit very close to home Monday morning as I was driving to an appointment when torrential rain and thunderstorms bore down.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has confirmed that the EF-0 tornado touched down in Union County, New Jersey, amid a band of thunderstorms that brought heavy rain and flooding to parts of the state yesterday.

The tornado touched down in Berkeley Heights and for eight minutes cut a path nearly 50 yards wide and 4.8 miles long northeast through New Providence and Summit.

Winds reached an estimated 85 mph and extensive tree damage was observed along the tornado path, the NWS said.

The NJ Star Ledger reports that New Jersey has experienced at least one tornado in each of the last five years, according to records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All of them were listed as EF-0, the lowest designation.

Here’s a visual of the tornado’s path, courtesy of NJ.com and the NWS:

An EF-1 tornado is also confirmed to have touched down in Connecticut yesterday, causing property damage.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms Prompt Evacuations

Severe thunderstorms again took their toll this weekend as one fan was killed and nine injured as a result of lightning strikes following a NASCAR race at Pocono raceway on Sunday.

The Associated Press reports that multiple lightning strikes occurred behind the racetrack’s grandstands and outside one of the gates as fans were leaving after warnings to take cover from the lightning and rain as the race was postponed.

Earlier, on Saturday, an estimated 60,000 fans and 3,000 staff, artists and vendors were evacuated from the annual Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago in 38 minutes, ahead of a severe thunderstorm warning for the area.

Over at Wunderblog, Dr. Jeff Masters notes that NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) logged over 150 reports of wind damage from the storm, with five of the thunderstorms containing winds in excess of hurricane force (74 mph).

The Chicago Tribune reports that many of the measures leading up to the evacuation had been outlined in a severe weather plan jointly developed by the city and Lollapalooza promoter C3 Presents. The festival resumed three hours later.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)  notes  that in 2011 there were 26 lightning fatalities, three fewer than the 2010 total of 29 deaths and 11 fewer than the 10-year average of 37 fatalities, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The I.I.I. offers tips and resources on lightning safety here.

Thunderstorms And Lightning

The news  that 77  Air Force ROTC  cadets escaped injury after lightning struck a utility pole at their camp in Mississippi earlier this week reminds us not to overlook  this  dangerous hazard.

While seasonal severe thunderstorms  have rightly  put the focus on tornadoes, lightning is an underrated killer and cause of property damage.

I.I.I. facts + statistics on lightning show that in 2010 there were 29 lightning fatalities, five less than the 2009 total of 34 deaths and ten below the 10-year average of 39 fatalities.

Insured losses  from lightning-related claims  totaled just over $1 billion in 2010, up 30 percent from $798 million in 2009, according to the I.I.I.

The I.I.I. video below dispels some of the myths about lightning:

Thunderstorms Underscore Importance Of Insurance

A severe storm system moving across southern U.S. states is making for treacherous conditions and bringing numerous reports of rain, hail, tornadoes and flash floods.

Risk Management Solutions (RMS) cites National Weather Service reports of tornadoes across the states of Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee. A state of emergency has been declared in Arkansas based on tornado activity and flash flooding.

A tornado outside the Arkansas capital of Little Rock caused reported damage to around 10 homes, while the town of Vilonia in Faulkner County, Arkansas reported damage to between 50 and 80 properties, RMS notes.

The New York Times reports that the storms and floods left at least 5 dead in Arkansas.

The latest round of storms comes just days after Missouri was hard hit by severe weather including an EF-4 tornado that caused significant damage in St Louis County.

RMS comments:

This April has been a particularly active month for severe convective storms across the U.S., with preliminary reports of as many as 3 times the number of tornadoes than the monthly average from the National Weather Service. While preliminary reports cannot be directly compared to the actual monthly number of tornadoes from previous years, this gives an indication of the heightened tornado activity observed this year.

From insurers’ perspective, property damage caused by thunderstorms can be costly. According to the I.I.I., over the last three years the insurance industry paid $30 billion in property claims for thunderstorms, the highest in U.S. history.

A YouTube video (below) of the tornado hitting Lambert-St. Louis International airport last Friday has been widely circulated on the web, and is compulsive viewing with around 800,000 hits so far: