A Firm Foundation: How Insurance Supports the Economy

2018 and 2017 Hurricane Seasons

2018: During the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season 15 named storms formed in the Atlantic region. Eight of those storms became hurricanes and two of those, Florence and Michael, became major storms, Category 3 and above. Florence became the third hurricane of the season and reached Category 4 status. It became a slow-moving storm that brought hurricane-force winds, life-threatening storm surge, and freshwater flooding.  Florence made landfall along the southeastern coast of North Carolina as a strong Category 1 storm and brought significant storm surge flooding to portions of eastern North Carolina. Florence produced rainfall that exceeded 20 inches along the North and South Carolina border, and in some parts of North Carolina exceeded 30 inches, a state record. The previous record was 24 inches caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. In South Carolina, a new record was reached when rains reached almost 24 inches.  Florence caused 22 direct deaths in the United States, including 15 in North Carolina, 4 in South Carolina and 3 in Virginia, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Catastrophe modelers have estimated that insured losses from Hurricane Florence would range from $2.0 billion to $5.5 billion, excluding National Flood Insurance Program losses.

Hurricane Michael became a strong Category 5 storm on October 10 and made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, in the Florida Panhandle. Hurricane Michael 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 Atmostpheric Administration. It was the first Category 5 storm to make landfall in the United States, after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Michael caused 16 deaths in the United States: seven in Florida, five in Virginia, three in North Carolina and one in Georgia. According to CoreLogic there were 57,000 homes at risk of coastal storm surge, totaling more than $13 billion in reconstruction cost value (RCV) across Florida alone. Other catastrophe modelers estimated that insured losses from Hurricane Michael could range from $6 billion to $8 billion. As of May 31, 2019, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulations reported that insured losses from Michael in Florida had reached $6.6 billion, comprised of residential and commercial property, private flood and business interruption insurance, and miscellaneous coverages. There were 147,325 claims made through May 31, with 84 percent of those claims closed.

2017: The hurricane season of 2017 broke several records, as 17 tropical storms formed in the Atlantic Basin, with 10 of these becoming hurricanes. Six hurricanes became major storms, Category 3 and above—Harvey, Irma, Jose, Lee, Maria and Ophelia. Two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, reached Category 5 strength. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was the first time three Category 4 hurricanes—Harvey, Irma and Maria—made landfall in the United States and its territories in one year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

On August 25 Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm. Harvey was the first major hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and the first Category 4 hurricane to affect Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961. The last time a hurricane made landfall in Texas was in 2008 when Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm, struck the state. Harvey brought unprecedented flooding from rainfall to Texas and Louisiana. About 50 inches of rain fell in portions of the Greater Houston area and the upper Texas coast, breaking records. On August 30 Harvey made landfall west of Cameron, Louisiana, as a tropical storm, continuing to bring rain to Texas and Louisiana. Tens of thousands of people were displaced due to floods, with thousands of homes and businesses destroyed. At least 68 direct deaths related to Hurricane Harvey have been reported in Texas. Harvey was the deadliest U.S. hurricane in terms of direct deaths since superstorm Sandy in 2012, and the deadliest to hit Texas since 1919, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Loss estimates are not yet available from the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that  insured losses from Hurricane Harvey will total between $16 billion and $19 billion in dollars when it occurred, making it the fifth costliest hurricane to hit the United States, excluding flood damage covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program.

Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key in the Lower Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane on September 10, and a second landfall in Florida on Marco Island in Southwest Florida as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm brought high storm surge to Naples and widespread, damaging winds across most of Florida. Hurricane Irma was one of the most powerful and costliest hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin, and the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. At its peak it was a Category 5 storm, and was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since Katrina in 2005. Complete devastation was reported in the Northern Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands. According to NOAA, the Florida Keys were heavily impacted, with 25 percent of buildings destroyed, and 65 percent significantly damaged. Irma brought record storm surge to parts of the Southeast coast, including Jacksonville, Florida, with significant coastal flooding extending into the Carolinas. Irma caused 10 direct deaths in the United States, three in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the remainder on mainland United States, according to NOAA. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported that as of November 14, 2018 about 1,002,800 claims were filed in the state from Irma, resulting in $11.1 billion in insured losses. To date, 92 percent of claims have been closed, either paid or unpaid. Loss estimates are not yet available from the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that insured losses from Hurricane Irma will be between $20 billion and $24 billion in dollars when it occurred. This would place Irma as the third costliest hurricane to hit the United States, excluding flood damage covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program.

Maria became a Category 5 hurricane on September 18, passing over St. Croix in the Virgin Islands and later made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Puerto Rico. Maria was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since a Category 5 hurricane hit the island in 1928. Maria caused 65 official direct deaths and catastrophic damage to much of the island. Maria brought up to 37 inches of rain, with widespread flooding and mudslides, according to NOAA. The government of Puerto Rico later estimated that the number of deaths was 1,427 due to delayed or interrupted health care, and raised that tally to 2,975 after a study was conducted by George Washington University. Loss estimates are not yet available from the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that insured losses from Hurricane Maria will reach between $25 billion and $30 billion in dollars when it occurred. Hurricane Maria was the second costliest hurricane to hit the United States, excluding flood damage covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program, and was surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina, which caused about $52 billion in insured losses in 2018 dollars.

Hurricane Nate made a first landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on October 7 near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and a second landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi, on October 8. Nate was the fourth hurricane to make landfall in the United States in 2017, the first year the United States has had four landfalls since 2005.

The following chart from the Property Claim Services (PCS®) unit of ISO, a Verisk Analytics® business, ranks historic hurricanes based on their insured losses, adjusted for inflation. The chart beneath it, from AIR Worldwide Corp., estimates insured property losses from notable hurricanes from past years, if they were to hit the nation again today with the same meteorological parameters.

Top 10 Costliest Hurricanes In The United States (1)

($ millions)

        Estimated insured loss
Rank Date Location Hurricane Dollars when occurred In 2018 dollars (2)
1 Aug. 25-30, 2005 AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, TN Hurricane Katrina $41,100 $51,882
2 Sep. 19-22, 2017 PR, USVI Hurricane Maria (3) 25,000-30,000 25,600-30,700
3 Sep. 6-12, 2017 AL, FL, GA, NC, PR, SC, UV Hurricane Irma (3) 20,000-25,000 20,400-25,600
4 Oct. 28-31, 2012 CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH,
NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, VA, VT, WV
Hurricane Sandy 18,750 20,688
5 Aug. 25-Sep. 1, 2017 AL, LA, MS, NC, TN, TX Hurricane Harvey (3) 16,000-19,000 16,400-19,400
6 Aug. 24-26, 1992 FL, LA Hurricane Andrew 15,500 25,404
7 Sep. 12-14, 2008 AR, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, OH, PA, TX Hurricane Ike 12,500 14,631
8 Oct. 24, 2005 FL Hurricane Wilma 10,300 13,002
9 Aug. 13-14, 2004 FL, NC, SC Hurricane Charley 7,475 9,729
10 Sep. 15-21, 2004 AL, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, NJ,
NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV
Hurricane Ivan 7,110 9,254

(1) Property losses only. Excludes flood damage covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program. Ranked on dollars when occurred. As of March 6, 2019.
(2) Adjusted for inflation through 2018 by the Insurance Information Institute using the GDP implicit price deflator.
(3) Insurance Information Institute estimate based on data from catastrophe risk modelers, reinsurance companies, the Property Claims Services unit of Verisk Analytics, the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. These estimates are preliminary because the organizations involved periodically resurvey the events, and the severity of losses and other factors create a high level of uncertainty surrounding the ultimate loss figures.

Source: Insurance Information Institute, catastrophe risk modelers, reinsurance companies, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the Property Claim Services® (PCS®) unit of ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® company, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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Estimated Insured Losses For The Top 10 Historical Hurricanes Based On Current Exposures (1)

($ billions)

Rank Date Event Category 2017 insured loss
1 Sep. 18, 1926 Great Miami Hurricane 4 $128
2 Sep. 17, 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane 4 78
3 Aug. 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina 3 (2) 64
4 Sep. 17, 1947 1947 Fort Lauderdale Hurricane 4 62
5 Sep. 9, 1965 Hurricane Betsy 4 (2) 57
6 Aug. 24, 1992 Hurricane Andrew 5 56
7 Sep. 10, 1960 Hurricane Donna 4 50
8 Sep. 21, 1938 The Great New England Hurricane 3 50
9 Sep. 9, 1900 1900 Galveston Hurricane 4 49
10 Aug. 17, 1915 1915 Galveston Hurricane 3 25

(1) Modeled loss to property, contents and business interruption and additional living expenses for residential, mobile home, commercial and auto exposures as of end-2016. Losses include demand surge and account for storm surge.
(2) Strength at second landfall in Louisiana.

Source: AIR Worldwide Corporation.

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