RMS: Direct Charley Hit Losses Could Top $10 Billion

August 12, 2004

Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a provider of products and services for the management of catastrophe risk, on Thursday warned that insured losses in the U.S. could exceed $10 billion if Hurricane Charley follows the track and severity estimates published by the National Hurricane Center at 5 p.m. EDT on Thursday.

Hurricane Charley is currently forecast to make landfall somewhere along the western Florida coast on Friday evening as a moderate Category 3 hurricane.

While the exact landfall position and intensity are still very uncertain,
the mid-point of the latest National Hurricane Center forecast places the landfall just north of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. In this landfall scenario, the strongest winds to the right of the hurricane track would pass directly over the Tampa Bay area, which is the most densely populated area in western Florida. Insured property values in the region are approximately $250 billion, representing over 10% of total property in the state.

“Financial losses are very sensitive to the exact landfall position, so
while there is still a lot of uncertainty, the current forecast track is
just about the worst-case position for a landfalling hurricane in western Florida,” Kyle Beatty, meteorologist at RMS, said. “The forecasted intensity at landfall for Hurricane Charley has also increased considerably since yesterday. Losses are also very sensitive to this factor. The latest forecasts show the storm reintensifying after passing over Cuba, and making landfall with wind speeds of approximately 120 mph. If this scenario plays out in terms of intensity and landfall position, losses could exceed $10 billion.”

Storm surge and related flooding are also of concern.

Storm surge from a Category 3 Hurricane in this area would be expected to reach 10-12 feet. The orientation of winds relative to Tampa Bay could amplify these surge levels, with depths reaching 15 feet within the Bay as water ‘piles up.’ This phenomenon of surge amplification in major bays was also observed around Chesapeake Bay during Hurricane Isabel last year.

Meantime, losses from Tropical Storm Bonnie are expected to be modest due to its landfall position and intensity.

Scenario loss estimates noted for Hurricane Charley do not include additional losses expected in the Caribbean (Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cuba).

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