Pondering The Possibility Of The $500 Billion Storm

Good afternoon everyone. I continue to be pretty busy getting ready for the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season. I’ve updated the list of storm names for the upcoming season in both the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific. Tomorrow, at a Hurricane Conference in the Bahamas, the forecast team at Colorado State led by Dr. William Gray and his assistant, Philip Klotzbach, is going to issue an update to their seasonal forecast for 2008. And, it appears that the forecast numbers will inch upward after a somewhat cautious forecast for above average activity was issued in December.

However, the real issue I wanted to discuss with you today was concerning an article that I read online recently about the prospect of the $500 billion hurricane. Yes, that’s right, a major storm that produces a half a trillion dollars in damage in the United States. With more people wanting to live along the coast from Maine to Texas, the increasing property values, continued building, and insurance companies changing their approach in providing coverage to those that persist in pursuing a life near the water, the more likely the cost in damages from future storms along the lines of an Andrew or a Katrina will skyrocket. Back in August 1992, Hurricane Andrew produced damage that ultimately cost South Florida some $27 billion dollars. Up until 2005, Andrew had been the costliest United States storm, and natural disaster in United States history. However, Katrina’s devastation more than tripled that amount when it crashed into New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Original estimates of damages done by Katrina was in the range of $200 billion, but it ended up being only $81 billion. There have been fears that the next major hurricane to hit South Florida will cost over $100 billion dollars. Moreover, places such as New York City, which is very vulnerable to hurricanes, at the center of a densely populated region that includes New Jersey and Connecticut, and also has places such as Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore within driving distance, could break the bank in terms of damages when the next big storm along the likes of the Long Island Express of 1938 and the Great Hurricane of 1821 comes up the coast. Insurance forecasts are now indicating that by the year 2020, we could have a major hurricane of Category Three strength or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, leave behind a price tag of $500 billion.

It’s amazing how prices just keep on going up. Back in the fall of 2001 when Hurricaneville was putting together it’s special series of reports on Tri-State Storm Preparedness, it was learned that a hypothetical situation with a Category Four Hurricane striking Asbury Park, New Jersey, would cause some $52 billion dollars in damage to the New York City area. Last week, a blog entry here in the Hurricaneville Blogosphere talked about how the new director at the National Hurricane Center, Bill Read, was very concerned about the possible scenario of a major hurricane striking New York and New England. Moreover, articles have appeared on the internet about problems facing state insurance programs such as the Florida Catastrophe Fund, and the Texas state insurer, which could cause insurance markets to be wiped out if and when the next storm comes ashore in those two very likely places. With a very active cycle of tropical storm and hurricane activity in place currently in the Atlantic, and the likelihood of that lasting for another 15 to 20 years at least, we are definitely playing Russian Roulette with our lives and property along the coast.