Karen Clark: Hurricane Michael Losses Could Reach $8B

October 15, 2018

Catastrophe modeling firm Karen Clark & Co. (KCC) estimates insured losses from Hurricane Michael will be close to $8 billion, according to the KCC high resolution U.S. Hurricane Reference Model.

This estimate includes the privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial, and industrial properties and automobiles. It does not include NFIP losses.

While Michael was predominantly a wind event, KCC estimates total damages from storm surge of $3.7 billion, of which about 10 percent will be insured.

Hurricane Michael, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla. on Oct. 10, had Category 4 wind speeds. It reached peak intensity of 155 mph – 2 mph short of a Category 5 – just before landfall, making Michael the strongest hurricane to impact the Florida Panhandle in recorded history and carried the fourth highest wind speeds of a hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. in recorded history. Michael’s peak winds at landfall were just behind the three Category 5 storms that have made landfall since 1900 – Labor Day (1935), Camille (1969), and Andrew (1992).

Storm surge impacts were devastating in specific areas such as Mexico Beach, KCC said. Storm surge depths ranged from 9 to 14 feet along the most impacted area of the coast between Mexico Beach and Apalachee Bay.

KCC said the very small, tightly wound, and powerful eyewall caused tornado-like damage in and around Panama City, which was ground zero for Hurricane Michael, and caused damage across five states, with the majority of the loss in Florida and Georgia.

The highest wind speeds of 155 mph, the equivalent of an EF-3 tornado, impacted a narrow area through Bay County, Fla., and resulted in extensive wind-related damage across all lines of business and construction types.

Hurricane Michael’s Destruction in Photos

Residential structures impacted by the Category 4 wind speeds sustained heavy damage. Once the roofs are blown off, single family homes will fail due to the loss of structural integrity, KCC said.

Many types of commercial structures including apartment complexes, office buildings, and schools sustained heavy damage. Hotels, especially those along the coast, sustained damage to windows, roofs, and other elements due to high winds.

Light-metal and frame structures in this area were unable to withstand the high wind speeds, and this damage is consistent with expectations of a storm of this strength. Tyndall Air Force Base, also in the eye of the storm, sustained major damage.

KCC estimates that nearly one half of the $8 billion insured loss from Hurricane Michael occurred in two Florida counties – Bay and Gulf.

Inland Impacts

As Michael moved inland, it continued to cut a relatively narrow path of destruction. Tallahassee, the most populated city in the Panhandle, remained outside the eastern eyewall and barely experienced hurricane force winds. Direct wind damage was limited to low level roof and siding damage. For the most part, structural damages were the result of falling trees.

In general, wind speeds fell off rapidly outside the eyewall, sparing many areas from the intense wind speeds. Michael was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane when the center was over southwestern Georgia and maintained tropical storm status through South and North Carolina. Power outages and low levels of wind damage were experienced across five states.

Source: Karen Clark & Co.

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