AIR Estimates Insured Losses from Hurricane Jova at Less than $52 Million

October 14, 2011

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, estimates that insured losses caused by Hurricane Jova from flood-induced damage, as well as from some isolated wind damage along Mexico’s southern coastal areas, will be “less than MXN 700 million ($52 million),” assuming an exchange rate of 1 USD = 13.4 MXN.

AIR noted that “after striking a sparsely populated stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast on October 11 as a Category 2 hurricane, Jova weakened as it traveled inland towards the north, dissipating late last night over the state of Nayarit. Because it was a small storm and weakened to tropical storm strength within 12 hours of landfall, damage from Jova’s winds has been limited.”

Dr. Tim Doggett, principal scientist at AIR Worldwide, noted that the “heavy rainfall, which began as Jova’s outer rain bands approached the coast prior to landfall and is finally subsiding after the storm’s dissipation, has caused serious flooding and landslides in parts of Colima and Jalisco. Mexico’s coastal mountains enhanced precipitation on the north and east sides of the storm. As the slow-moving storm came ashore, its counterclockwise flow of air was forced over the mountainous terrain, cooling in its ascent and forming clouds and precipitation.”

Winds covered a limited area and thus did less damage than expected. The storms did bring heavy rainfall. AIR said that reports from Mexico’s National Weather Service “indicate up to 37 cm (14.5 in) of rainfall in parts of Colima, and 10–12 cm (4-5 in) in other impacted areas, including parts of Chiapas, Jalisco, and Michoacán. These rainfall totals fall within the forecast range.

“Dozens of towns—including Cihuatlán, La Huerta, Villa Purificacion, and Cuautitlán de García Barragán—have been isolated by floodwaters, which are several feet deep in some places. The Marabasco River, which forms the border between Colima and Jalisco, and ten of its streams have overflowed.

“Significant flooding has also been reported in Manzanillo in Colima state, about 60 miles southeast of the Jova’s landfall location. Yesterday, streets in the busy port town remained impassable, and highways that connect Manzanillo to southern Jalisco were closed. Nearby, streets in the coastal towns of Zihuatlan, Melaque and Barra de Navidad were reported to be inundated as well.” However, Puerto Vallarta “was spared from significant wind and flood damage,” Dr. Doggett noted.

According to AIR, “most insured residential structures on Mexico’s west coast—including those in Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta—are made of confined masonry, which performs better than plain masonry under lateral wind loads because of its use of bond beams and columns. However, masonry is characterized by weak connections between building elements and the material itself is pervious to water.

“Furthermore, a large percentage of houses built every year in Mexico are constructed without a building permit, perhaps as large as 50 percent. Take-up rates (the percentage of properties actually insured) for residential properties are very low in the region, estimated at around 5 percent.

“Commercial properties in this region are typically constructed of confined masonry or reinforced concrete and usually have stronger foundations than residential buildings, making them less vulnerable than residential structures. Concrete buildings are less vulnerable to flooding than masonry, but may suffer cracking and rebar expansion. Commercial/industrial insurance penetration is estimated at around 70 percent, and automobiles at 100 percent.”

Dr. Doggett concluded: “In summary, the storm hit a relatively sparsely populated region of the coast, and strongest winds from the storm were highly confined. Furthermore, rainfall accumulations were moderate, but not extreme, in the more populated regions of Jalisco where there are higher concentrations of exposure.”

Source: AIR Worldwide

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