RMS: $6 to $8 Billion Insured Losses from Charley

August 17, 2004

Catastrophe modeling firm Risk Management Solutions (RMS) has estimated insured losses from Hurricane Charley at $6 to $8 billion based on a detailed reconstruction of the storm’s windfield and damage pattern.

RMS engineers have been surveying damage since Saturday, and have verified the storm’s unusually narrow swath of intense damage. The teams have also been validating the exact position of this damage relative to the highest concentrations of insured property in the landfall zone and in the Orlando metropolitan area.

This analysis has led to an increase in insured loss estimates relative to the company’s preliminary estimate of approximately $5 billion, issued on Friday evening as Charley was exiting Florida’s east coast. Updated losses include a small contribution from the storm’s second landfall in the Carolinas.

The RMS reconnaissance team surveying the landfall area confirmed the highest levels of damage from just south of Fort Myers northward to Port Charlotte. Offshore barrier islands that took the brunt of the storm’s wind and surge, including Sanibel Island, were still inaccessible. These areas have undergone rapid development in recent years, increasing the amount of insured exposure.

“Damage patterns are very consistent with our windfield reconstruction,” Michael Young, chief wind vulnerability engineer at RMS, commented. “There is widespread severe damage to mobile homes and light metal buildings throughout the landfall area. We also see severe roof damage to residences, as expected from Category 4 winds.”

The damage path extends inland along U.S. Highway 17 past the town of Arcadia in DeSoto County, where the team also observed heavy damage. In the core of the wind swath near Arcadia, a number of steel frame structures including the Turner Civic Center sustained major damage consistent with Category 3 winds, as modeled in the RMS windfield.

A second reconnaissance team in Orlando confirmed the position and intensity of winds as the storm penetrated far inland. Charley moved very quickly across the state, allowing it to maintain strong Category 1 to Category 2 force winds on its approach to the densely populated Orlando metropolitan area.

“The damage is quite heavy if you consider how far inland we are from the landfall point,” Phil LeGrone, RMS vulnerability engineer in charge of the Orlando reconnaissance, remarked. “The most intense damage occurred in southern parts of the metropolitan area, along a corridor about 10 miles wide between Interstate 4 and the Orlando International Airport. The amount of development in the Orlando area makes it an important component of the total loss in the state.”

The $6 to $8 billion loss estimate includes expected insurance payments for damage to residential and commercial structures, contents, autos, and loss of use (business interruption and additional living expenses). These insured loss estimates do not include other components of total economic loss such as uninsured property, infrastructure damage, agricultural losses, losses below insurance deductibles, or flood losses paid through the National Flood Insurance Program.

The estimates also do not include losses incurred in the Caribbean, where the storm crossed the Cayman Islands as a Category 1 hurricane prior to moving across Cuba and into Florida.

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