Hurricane Harvey Hits Texas with Up to $30 Billion in Damages

Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas on Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane, has so far caused at least five deaths and more than a dozen injuries. Now a tropical storm, Harvey has dumped more than 30 inches of rain on the Houston area, with another 15 to 20 inches anticipated by Friday.

According to the New York Times:

  • With record floodwaters devastating much of southeast Texas, more than 450,000 people are likely to seek federal aid in recovering from Harvey, the storm that has battered the Gulf Coast for days, Brock Long, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on Monday. The agency has estimated that about 30,000 people will seek emergency shelter, and that federal aid will be needed for years.
  • The Houston region now looks like an inland sea dotted by islands, with floodwaters inundating roads, vehicles, and even bridges and buildings. Thousands of people have been rescued from flooded homes and cars and many more are stuck in homes that remained above water but are cut off.

Bloomberg reports that damage from Harvey is expected to reach as much as $30 billion when factoring in the impact of flooding on the region’s labor force, power grid, transportation and other aspects supporting the energy sector.

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimates that industry insured losses resulting from Hurricane Harvey’s winds and storm surge in Texas will range from $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion. AIR noted that these estimates do not include the impact of the ongoing torrential rain and catastrophic flooding from the hurricane unprecedented precipitation.

Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005, caused about $160 billion in total economic damages, with about 47% covered by the insurance industry.

The Wall Street Journal said that despite the high damage anticipated, the timing is good for insurers and their customers:

Personal and commercial insurers have record levels of capital, the money they have on hand that isn’t required to back obligations. With insurers’ overall strong capital position, Harvey is unlikely to cause extensive damage to the industry’s financial strength, although it could hurt quarterly earnings for those carriers with blocks of business in hard-hit areas.

According to the Wall Street Journal, analysts estimate it would take $100 billion or more of losses in a 12-month period to cause distress within the insurance industry. The Insurance Information Institute reported that insurers had $709 billion in surplus during the first quarter of this year, which translates to $1 in surplus for every 75 cents of net premiums.

Although 52% of residential and commercial properties in the Houston metro are at “High” or “Moderate” risk of flooding, they are not in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to CoreLogic. Properties within SFHA zones, categorized as Extreme or Very High Risk, require flood insurance if the property has a federally insured mortgage. Properties outside SFHA zones are not required to carry flood insurance.

Levels of flood risk for properties in seven metro areas likely to have severe rain and flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey:

A factor in insurance costs, according to AIR Worldwide, is that more than half of the commercial buildings in both Texas and Louisiana are steel and concrete. Unlike residential structures, commercial buildings are often built to stricter standards, making them less vulnerable than single-family homes. More than 40% of buildings in the U.S. Gulf Coast region meet Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) standards set in 1980, AIR said.

Authorities Examine Hotel Owner’s Request for Help Before Italian Avalanche

avalanche barriers
As the search for survivors at an Italian hotel buried during an avalanche continues, an investigation has been launched into a distress call and emails for help by the hotel’s owner. Triggered by a series of earthquakes, the avalanche claimed the lives of at least 14 people, with 15 still missing, according to reports. A staff of eight and 20 guests were reported to have been at the hotel at the time.

Bruno Di Tommaso, owner of hotel Rigopiano, a popular ski resort, reportedly sent an email asking for help from authorities in the nearby town of Pescara. “The phones are out of service. Customers are terrified by the earthquakes and have decided to stay outdoors. We tried to do everything possible to calm them but, unable to leave because of blocked roads, they are willing to spend the night in the car,” his email read. “With our shovels we were able to clean the driveway, from the gate to the SS42 (state road). Aware of the general difficulties, we ask you to intervene.”

The UK’s Telegraph reported that prosecutors in Pescara have opened an investigation into the situation, questioning why there was no attempt to evacuate the hotel. Investigators looking into possible manslaughter charges are examining Di Tommaso’s email.

According to the Telegraph:

Authorities had reportedly promised to send a snow plow to clear the road to the hotel on Wednesday afternoon, but its arrival was constantly postponed and in the end it did not turn up at all, amid reports that some snow plow in the region were out of service while others had been dispatched to other emergencies.

There have already been claims that when the alarm was first raised, by a man who survived the avalanche by luck because he was collecting medicine from his car, his pleas for help were initially rebuffed by emergency services.

The quakes struck near Amatrice, one of the towns destroyed in August by an earthquake that left almost 300 people dead and thousands homeless.

Lloyd’s Finds Extreme Weather Can Be Accurately Modeled Independently

In a new report based on research from UK national weather service the Met Office, Lloyd’s has found that extreme weather events may be modeled independently. While extreme weather can be related to events within a region, these perils are not significant correlated with perils in other regions of the world.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Met Office research found that the majority of perils are not significantly correlated, but identified nine noteworthy peril-to-peril teleconnections, most of which are negatively correlated
  • Lloyds’ modeling finds that these correlations were not substantial enough to warrant changes to the amount of capital it holds to cover extreme weather claims
  • Even when there is some correlation between weather patterns, it does not necessarily follow that there will be large insurance losses. Extreme weather events may still occur simultaneously even if there is no link between them
  • An assumption of independence for capital-holding purposes is therefore appropriate for the key risks the Lloyd’s market currently insures
  • The methodology released in the report enables scenario modeling across global portfolios for appropriate region-perils

“This important finding supports the broader argument that the global reinsurance industry’s practice of pooling risks in multiple regions is capital efficient and that modeling appropriate region perils as independent is reasonable,” the report concluded.

According to Trevor Maynard, head of exposure management and reinsurance at Lloyd’s, “This challenges the increasingly held view among some regulators around the world that capital for local risks should be held in their own jurisdictions. Lloyd’s believes this approach reduces the capital efficiency of the (re)insurance market by ignoring the diversification benefits provided by writing different risks in different locations and, in so doing, needlessly increases costs, to the ultimate detriment of policyholders. Insisting on the fragmentation of capital is not in the best interests of policyholders.”

Check out the map below for further insight from the Met Office about large-scale weather perils that do demonstrate statistically significant correlation:

lloyd's extreme weather perils

KCC Estimates $7B Insured Damages from Hurricane Matthew

Based on high-resolution storm surge, inland flooding and wind models, Karen Clark & Co. said today that it estimates insurers will pay $7 billion for damages in the United States resulting from Hurricane Matthew.

The storm weakened and stayed further off the Florida coast than was initially projected by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). While it stayed offshore, other than a brief landfall in South Carolina, Hurricane Matthew caused extensive wind, storm surge, and inland flooding damage.
kcc-totals

KCC said in a flash bulletin that it tracked the event using forecast data from the NHC and RiskInsight’s advanced module, WindfieldBuilder, which automatically creates a high-resolution wind footprint for each storm advisory so that losses and numbers of claims can be estimated for specific portfolios along with the likely locations of claims.

Hurricane-force winds of more than 74 mph were experienced along limited sections of Florida’s coastline, most notably areas between Cape Canaveral and St. Augustine, damaging residential and commercial structures including roofs, windows, awnings, and signage.

As the track of the storm veered closer to the coastline near Savannah, hurricane-force winds again impacted properties along the coast, KCC said. The most impacted coastal areas include:

  • Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Tybee Island, Georgia
  • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

kcc-surge-map

Along the coast there were isolated pockets of significant storm surge and resulting property losses. As Matthew tracked parallel to the coastline for a distance, many other areas experienced minor storm surge damage.

The table below shows the measured precipitation for a few cities in North Carolina, where water levels are expected to exceed the 500-year flood levels for the second time in 20 years:
kcc-flood-totals