Karen Clark & Co. Estimates $2.5B in Insured Losses from Hurricane Florence

September 18, 2018

Insured losses from Hurricane Florence will reach $2.5 billion, according to an estimate from Karen Clark & Co.

The estimate of insured losses to residential, commercial, and industrial properties and autos comes from KCC’s High Resolution U.S. Hurricane Reference Model and includes the privately insured wind, storm surge, and inland flooding damage to residential, commercial, and industrial properties and automobiles. It does not include NFIP losses.

Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., with Category 1 wind speeds on September 14. The storm reached its peak intensity of 140 mph on September 10, but weakened before impacting the U.S. coast and spared the Carolinas from major hurricane impacts. However, the storm brought heavy precipitation in excess of 30 inches to parts of North Carolina and peak storm surge reached 10 feet in New Bern, N.C.

Meteorological Development

Hurricane Florence began as a tropical disturbance off the coast of Cape Verde on August 30 and trended west-northwest across the Atlantic towards the U.S. coastline. Florence’s intensity fluctuated during the forecast period, and the storm became a major hurricane twice. On September 5, sustained wind speeds reached 130 mph before weakening, and Florence reached peak intensity on September 10 with 140 mph sustained wind speeds.

The storm had initially been projected to track inland across the Carolinas with Category 4 wind speeds. However, a combination of increased wind shear, land interaction with the US coast, and an upwelling effect caused Florence to weaken prior to making landfall.

On September 14, Florence made landfall in North Carolina with maximum sustained wind speeds around 90 mph. As the storm slowly passed southwest over South Carolina on September 15, the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm and made a wide turn to the north. By September 16, Florence had become a tropical depression in northeastern South Carolina.

Impacts

Peak surge from Hurricane Florence reached 10 feet in New Bern, N.C., and other areas of the state including Beaufort and Wilmington had significant storm surge impacts. Locations at the heads of shallow bays, where the water is more easily pushed ashore by a hurricane’s high wind speeds, have experienced the most coastal inundation.

Hurricane force winds were experienced only along the North Carolina coast, but tropical storm force winds were experienced across much of North and South Carolina. This led to widespread low level damage. Almost one million households lost power due to falling trees and power lines.

North Carolina, including Lumberton and Washington, experienced significant flooding driven by extreme rainfall rates as high as 30 inches in 24 hours. In addition to Florence’s slow forward speed contributing to rainfall rates, parts of the storm’s circulation remained over water as it began to move inland and provided the hurricane with a sustained source of water. Flooding was also exacerbated by storm surge preventing rivers from draining into the ocean and increasing their susceptibility to overtopping.

Source: Karen Clark & Co.

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