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Insured losses resulting from Hurricane Florence’s winds and storm surge will range from $1.7 billion to $4.6 billion, not including the impact of the ongoing flooding caused by the storm’s unprecedented precipitation, according to AIR Worldwide.
“Hurricane Florence, once a Category 4 storm, made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at about 7:15 a.m. on Friday, as a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds,” Peter Sousounis, vice president and director of meteorology for the Boston-based catastrophe risk modeling firm, said in a statement Tuesday. “As Florence approached the East Coast, it grew in size and exhibited multiple wind maxima, which are found in storms with abnormally low central pressure for a given maximum wind speed. As a consequence, strong winds extended well north of the landfall location up to the Outer Banks and into Pamlico Sound, which caused a high storm surge in this area.”
Reported wind damage in the affected area is consistent with that of a Category 1 hurricane, including downed trees causing damage to homes and automobiles, downed utility poles and shingle loss with isolated cases of more extensive roof damage, according to AIR Worldwide.
But Florence’s slow movement of 3 mph to 6 mph on Friday ensured that its principal impact will be from the excessive precipitation deposited over an extremely wide area, according to the firm.
Preliminary reports from the National Weather Service indicate that 35.93 inches fell in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, breaking the record set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and more than 30 inches of rain fell on Swansboro, North Carolina, while many other locations received more than 20 inches. Several bodies of water have risen above record levels and some of the gauges used to record river levels have been submerged, with at least two reported as having stopped working.
The heavy rainfall deposited by Florence has caused widespread riverine and flash flooding in many parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. Some dams and levees in the region are reportedly showing signs of distress, have failed or been partially breached and flooding may worsen in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia as precipitation continues to fall on saturated ground and runoff drains slowly toward the coast.
AIR’s modeled insured loss estimates include insured physical damage to property (residential, commercial, industrial, auto), both structures and their contents and, for commercial lines, insured physical damage to structures and contents, and business interruption directly caused by storm surge (other flood losses are not modeled or reflected in estimates), among other things.
AIR’s modeled insured loss estimates do not include precipitation-induced flooding, losses paid out by the National Flood Insurance Program, losses resulting from the compromise of existing defenses such as natural and man-made levees and losses to uninsured properties, among other things.
Hurricane Florence could generate tens of billions of dollars in insured losses for the property/casualty sector as it heads toward the United States, but the industry should be able to withstand any losses, according to analyses by ratings agencies.