Insured Losses from Recent U.S. Storm Could Top $1 Billion

February 6, 2011

Insurers stand to pay between $790 million and $1.4 billion for insured losses to residential, commercial and industrial properties and to automobiles stemming from the winter storm that struck the U.S. on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2.

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimates that the winter storm, one of the largest since the 1950s, affected nearly 100 million people across 30 states. The storm cut a swath across Texas to Canada, dropping more than a foot and half of snow in some regions and bringing high winds, sub-zero wind chill temperatures, freezing rain and ice

A number of seasonal snow accumulation records were broken. In the Northeast, officials reported a new record in Newark, N.J., which now has 62 inches of snow, compared with the seasonal average of 25 inches. In New York City, 56 inches of snow have fallen on Central Park, compared to an average of 22 inches.

States of emergency were declared in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma and the National Guard was called out to help rescue stranded motorists. Oklahoma has been declared a federal disaster area. Along with Illinois, these two states were the hardest hit.

With the accumulation of sleet, rain, and freezing rain, many roofs have been unable to bear the additional rain-saturated snow. In and around Boston, Mass., there have been more than 70 reports of roof collapses, most of them flat-roofed commercial structures, and more buildings have been identified as being at risk.

“While cleanup from the storm is underway, drifting is likely to continue to occur as a result of high winds, and there is still a potential for additional roof collapses,” Dr. Tim Doggett, principal scientist at Boston-based AIR Worldwide. “This is particularly true for light metal, long-span roofs such as on hangars or warehouses. Engineered structures must conform to high load tolerances and damage to these structures is therefore expected to be minimal. But the roofs of marginally engineered structures can collapse under large accumulations of snow, particularly if their roofs have not been well-maintained.”

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