Today’s insurers benefit from greater awareness of storm surge risk

Awareness of the risks facing coastal properties from storm surges has increased dramatically in the last few years, largely as a result of a handful of high-profile storms. Claims Journal interviewed local residents and insurance industry stakeholders for a look back at the impact of Hurricane Ike for the storm's five-year anniversary.

Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) President Robert Hartwig noted that Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had already elevated the industry's awareness of storm surge risk, and Ike served to reinforce the lesson three years later. He also said "it was a foreshadowing in a sense that we would see even worse storm surge damage in Hurricane Sandy four years later."

About a third of the total was in Galveston, Texas, and the surrounding areas where Ike made landfall. Citing an interview with Mark Hannah of the Insurance Council of Texas (ICT), Claims Journal reported that insured losses from Ike reached $12 billion. According to the ICT, $10 billion in covered losses were attributed to Ike's 110-mile-per-hour winds, while flooding driven by a 20-foot storm surge accounted for $2 billion.

Even inland areas in Ike's path saw a significant impact. The I.I.I. president said the hurricane caused about $500 million in damage in Ohio. A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put total U.S. damages from Ike at nearly $30 billion.

In the wake of Katrina, Ike and Sandy, public and private sector stakeholders have been working to adapt the way they predict and prepare for storms. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been updating its flood risk maps using new modeling technology. The new maps place many residential and commercial properties in Special Flood Hazard Areas, which can affect insurance coverage requirements.

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