Texas, Hawaii Spared From Potential Widespread Hurricane Damage

July 28, 2020

Hurricane Hanna spared insurers potential massive losses by making a landfall Saturday on a rural area of the Texas coast, in a state where residential properties receive relatively little protection from modern building codes.

Hurricane Douglas similarly averted disaster in the Pacific early Monday by skirting to the north of the Hawaiian Islands, passing no closer than 40 miles to any urban area.

It was an anticlimactic ending to a weekend that started amid warnings of potential disaster. Tropical Storm Gonzalo was predicted to reach hurricane strength as it approached Trinidad and Tobago, but the storm fizzled instead over the southeast Caribbean.

On Thursday, Gonzalo was one of three tropical systems building in the Atlantic.

Karen Clark & Co. estimated that Hanna caused $350 million in insured losses, not including risks covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. KCC said Tuesday morning that the storm left 200,000 customers without power after coming ashore with 90 mph wind.

Damage to signs and lightweight structures, such as gas station pavilions and marinas, were relatively common, KCC said. There was also roof and siding damage with rare instances of more severe structural damage, the company said.

Corpus Christi, Port Mansfield, McAllen, and other coastal towns all experienced storm surge flooding to residential and commercial buildings.

BMS Group Vice President and Senior Meteorologist Andrew Siffert said in a blog post that over the next three days, insurers were shown how difficult it is to forecast the intensity of hurricanes. While Gonzalo never became the first hurricane of the 2020 season as predicted by the National Hurricane Center, “there was very little weather model support for Hanna to become hurricane before landfall 72 hours ago,” Siffert wrote on Saturday.

Before Hanna made landfall on Sunday, CoreLogic issued a press release saying that 14,626 homes with an estimated reconstruction cost of $2.38 billion were within the expected storm surge area for a Category 1 storm. Almost half of that damage risk was in Brazoria County south of Houston.

But Hanna made landfall on South Padre Island in a thinly populated area about 70 miles south of Corpus Christi. City officials said the storm damaged Bob Hall Pier, but most of the damage was limited to debris removal, the Caller Times newspaper reported.

BMS’ Siffert noted that Hurricane Dolly caused an estimated $600 million in insured losses when it struck a more populated area of South Padre near Port Mansfield in 2008. He said in 1999, Hurricane Brett caused $50 million in damages (converted into 2019 values) when it came ashore as a Category 3 storm near the location where Hanna made landfall.

“So this is a great example of the overall importance of landfall location and risks exposed,” Siffert said. “It is looking like Hanna will have a limited impact on the insurance industry due to landfall location between Port Mansfield and Mustang Island.”

Siffert said insurers need to keep in mind the role that building codes and standards have on potential property damages. He said Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has consistently ranked Texas in the bottom 25 percent in their state rating guide, which ranks

statewide code and enforcement activities every three years. Texas ranked 34 in the 2018 assessment, better than Mississippi and Alabama but well below Florida’s 95 score and Virginia’s 94.

Hurricane Douglas never got a chance to test Hawaii’s building codes. The The southern eyewall of Douglas passed north of Maui, Oahu and Kauai, sparing those islands from the worst of the storm’s high winds and rainfall, according to weather.com. Douglas missed the island of Kauai by 40 miles.

Douglas was weakening as it headed out into the open Pacific.

About the photo: Allen Heath surveys the damage to a private marina after it was hit by Hurricane Hanna, Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Heath’s boat and about 30 others were lost or damaged. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Source: Claims Journal

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