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Insured losses from Florence could reach $5 billion: RMS

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Insured losses for Hurricane Florence will be between $2.8 billion and $5 billion, according to an estimate from Risk Management Solutions Inc.

The estimate represents insured losses associated with wind, storm surge and inland flood damage across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, including losses to the National Flood Insurance Program, the Newark, California-based catastrophe modeler said in a statement Monday.

The estimate includes property damage and business interruption caused by wind, coastal flooding and inland flooding to residential, commercial, industrial and automobile lines of business.

RMS estimated losses to the NFIP of between $800 million and $1.2 billion, according to the statement.

“Similar to events like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in 2017, RMS expects uninsured precipitation-induced flood losses from Florence to be material due to the prolonged, record-breaking rainfall,” RMS said in its statement.

RMS estimated that 70% of flood losses are expected to be uninsured for this event. Accounting for uninsured wind, storm surge and rainfall-driven flood losses in the U.S., RMS expects the overall economic loss from Hurricane Florence to fall between $6.0 billion and $11.0 billion.

Post-loss amplification is included in these figures as RMS expects that prolonged recovery efforts will create interruption and amplify losses in the coming weeks and months, the catastrophe modelling firm said. Florence caused significant damage to infrastructure in North and South Carolina, cutting off access to damaged areas and further delaying the return of residents and reopening of businesses. Furthermore, the breadth of Florence’s impact in the southeast U.S., particularly from inland flooding, may produce a large volume of claims for insurers to address, leading to potential claims inflation. It is also possible that assignment of benefits issues, combined with an aggressive legal environment, may contribute to a heightened loss amplification status within the state.

“We were fortunate that Florence weakened considerably before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane,” Mohsen Rahnama, chief risk modeling officer at RMS, said in the statement. “While wind-driven damages will still be sizable, the story of this storm is the flood impacts. Florence’s slow-moving nature brought historic rainfall and flooding to the Carolinas. Florence is yet another large inland flood event that exposes the protection gap for flood insurance in the U.S. NFIP takeup rates are less than 1% for the vast majority of noncoastal counties in the North and South Carolinas. Thus, we expect much of the losses in interior portions of the region to be largely uninsured.”