Isabel’s Impact Could Extend Beyond Atlantic Seaboard

September 18, 2003

Although meteorologists are continuously downgrading the anticipated strength of Hurricane Isabel, the storm could still wreak serious damage — and big insured losses — along the Atlantic seaboard, an insurance industry representative said in a note to reporters.

Because the areas at risk are heavily populated, insured losses could top the $19.9 billion in losses inflicted in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew, according to John Eager, senior director of claims for the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII).

While insurance companies are prepared to handle the claims arising from Isabel, the overall financial impact of those claims is impossible to estimate. However, if the average paid claim approached the values produced by Hurricane Andrew, insurer costs could be between $50.4 and $67.2 billion, Eager estimates. Andrew, the largest single natural disaster, produced more than 600,000 claims.

Continued development and population growth along the coasts over the past five to 10 years makes the cost of storms greater today, even when the cost of earlier storms are adjusted for inflation. For example, if Hurricane Andrew followed the same path today as it did in 1992, costs would be $25 billion, or roughly 20 percent more than the inflation-adjusted loss estimate from the actual storm, Eager noted.

According to the National Weather Service, inland flooding can occur as far as 500 miles from the site of a hurricane. Flooding is the most dangerous and deadly problem caused by hurricanes.

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