Hurricane Zeta Insured Losses May Surpass $4 Billion

November 2, 2020

Insured losses from Hurricane Zeta, which became fifth named storm to strike Louisiana when it made landfall on Oct. 28, ranged from $1.5 billion to $4.4 billion, according to projections released Monday by two catastrophe risk modelers.

Verisk subsidiary AIR Worldwide projected onshore losses from $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion.

Karen Clark & Co. estimated onshore losses of $4.3 billion in the United States and $80 million in Mexico.

Hurricane Zeta made landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula on Oct. 24th as a Category 1 hurricane, and then turned north to move across the Gulf of Mexico. Zeta made landfall at 4 p.m. CDT on Oct. 28 near Cocodrie, La, about 80 miles south of New Orleans. It then moved quickly northeastward and tracked directly over New Orleans before moving through Mississippi and Alabama, where it weakened to a tropical storm. Its remnants then continued across Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia.

According to AIR, at landfall, Zeta was a high-end Category 2 storm with 1-minute sustained wind speeds of 110 mph—just 1 mph shy of a Category 3, which would have classified it as a major hurricane.

Zeta was the 27th named storm of the season—tying the record for number of named storms in the Atlantic, set in 2005—and the 11th to make landfall in the United States, breaking the previous record for the number of U.S.- landfalling named storms set in 1916, AIR said. As the fifth named storm to make landfall in Louisiana this season, it also broke the record for the number of named storms to make landfall in Louisiana in one season set in 2002.

Hurricane Zeta made landfall just three weeks after Hurricane Delta and about nine weeks after Hurricane Laura. While Laura and Delta made landfall just 12 miles apart, Zeta made landfall about 150 miles east of their landfall locations and west of where Sally made landfall on September 16. Considering all four of these hurricanes—Sally, Laura, Delta, and Zeta—the entire coastline from eastern Texas near the Louisiana border to the western Florida Panhandle has been impacted by hurricanes so far this season, AIR said.

After landfall, Zeta moved through Louisiana and into Mississippi with gusts of up to 100 mph observed, and hurricane conditions impacted Mississippi and Alabama. By Thursday morning, Zeta had weakened to a tropical storm over central Alabama, although strong gusts continued to impact northeastern Alabama, northern Georgia, the Carolinas, and southeastern Virginia through Thursday as Zeta’s remnants trekked northeastward.

Hurricane Zeta’s storm surge inundated far into the bayous of southeastern Louisiana. Despite Zeta moving directly over New Orleans, the levees protected that city from storm surge. Inundation in Mississippi and Alabama was confined to coastal areas, with Mississippi’s coast experiencing the largest storm surge.

Included in AIR’s estimates are losses to onshore residential, commercial, and industrial properties and automobiles for their building, contents, and time element coverage.

KCC said its estimate includes the privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial, and industrial properties and automobiles. It does not include National Flood Insurance Program losses or losses to offshore properties.

Source: AIR Worldwide and Karen Clark & Co.

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