- Mark McDowell
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2012 CoreLogic Storm Surge Report Contains Some Surprises
Which American city is at the greatest financial risk from a hurricane? If you think it’s New Orleans or Miami, you’re wrong. According to CoreLogic, a data analysis firm, it’s New York City that is at the greatest risk, both from the number of properties impacted and the dollar value of the damage. The area also includes Long Island and northern New Jersey.
“The summer of 2011 gave us some startling insight into the damage that even a weak storm can cause in the New York City metro area,” CoreLogic vice president Howard Botts said. “Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed through New Jersey and New York City, but the impact of the storm was still estimated at as much as $6 billion. Economic losses mounted swiftly as businesses shuttered, the New York City mass transit system came to a sudden halt and emergency response teams were called into action to prepare for the worst.”
A hurricane is more likely to make landfall in Miami than New York, according to Colorado State University research. The odds are 5.3 percent for Miami and 0.2 percent for New York City. Fast forward a half century in the future and the odds rise to 95.5 percent for Miami and 6.6 percent for New York. Despite the discrepancy in numbers, the risk exists, especially from flooding. While most people associate hurricane damage with wind, the storm surge from rising waters caused by cyclones has the greatest impact.
That fact became evident to residents of the northeast after last summer’s Hurricane Irene. Although the insured impact of Irene on New York City was relatively mild, one of the insurance industry’s nightmares has always been a major hurricane traveling up the Hudson River and striking the city and its suburbs. Some estimates believe that an event of this magnitude could cause $100 billion just in insured losses, with economic damage greater than that. According to CoreLogic estimates, the property at risk in the New York City area is worth some $168 billion.
Core Logic said that more than four million homes in the United States are at risk from hurricane-related flood damage, with more than $700 billion in property potentially vulnerable. There are 2.2 million homes worth more than $500 billion at risk along the Atlantic coast; another 1.8 million homes worth $200 billion are imperiled along the Gulf coast. Approximately 35 percent of the at-risk homes are in Florida and another 12 percent or so in Louisiana, the firm said. In terms of value of property, more than 40 percent of the risk is concentrated in Florida and New York.
The 2012 CoreLogic Storm Surge report provides the first-ever analysis of residential property hurricane risk along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts broken down by region and by state, as well as a snapshot of the risk by metro areas.
Though more frequently impacted states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana get the most attention when it comes to hurricane vulnerability and destruction, Hurricane Irene made it very clear last summer that hurricane risk is not confined to the southern parts of the country,” Botts said. “That’s why we felt it was important this year to highlight storm-surge risk in a brand new way to establish a better understanding of exposure throughout the states that are most at risk of a direct hurricane hit. As we got a glimpse of during Irene, our 2012 report shows even a Category 1 storm could cause property damage in the billions along the northeastern Atlantic Coast and force major metropolitan areas to shut down or evacuate.”
CoreLogic created its Storm Surge Report to improve understanding of the risk that it poses to homes in areas prone to tropical storms. Storm surge is triggered by the high winds and low barometric pressure associated with hurricanes, which cause water to mass inside a storm as it moves across the ocean before releasing as a powerful rush overland when the hurricane moves onshore.
“The data we compile is useful for insurance providers and financial services companies, to help them better understand potential exposure to damage for homes — particularly those that do not fall into designated FEMA Special Flood Hazard Areas,” Botts said. “Homeowners who live outside of high risk flood zones are not required to carry flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and may not be fully aware of the risk storm surge poses to their home or property. When a storm strikes the coast, storm-surge flooding can inundate homes far inland and cause significant losses from powerful surge waters, damaging debris and standing water left behind.”