HOUSTON – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – Hurricane Harvey’s 50 inches of rain was severe. But even when the rain and wind of a hurricane is rated only Category 1, storm surge-generated flooding poses a great threat to homes along the coast – a situation that virtually any cyclonic storm could create, said speakers at a recent Core-Logic Storm Surge seminar,
Dr. Tom Jeffery, senior hazard scientist at CoreLogic, called storm surges one of the “perils” of hurricanes. Experts who spoke during the webinar said these walls of wind-swept water always slam coastal areas, but can extend far inland, even pushed by a Category 1 storm – the least powerful hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
“Seventy percent of the homes damaged during Hurricane Harvey were not insured for floods,” said Dr. Jeffery at the recent seminar. Flood insurance? Experts at the seminar suggested that inland homeowners in all hurricane-prone states might consider obtaining flood insurance, even if they are not in a flood zone.
Extensive flooding, he noted, is often caused by water that storm surges push up rivers, streams and other channels, overflowing their banks onto interior neighborhoods. “This can have an extreme risk inland.”
He said Florida “has the largest number of homes – the most coastline home development,” in the storm surge area, as well as the highest RCV — reconstruction cost value. Texas ranks fourth, behind Louisiana and the New York-New Jersey area.
Hurricane season 2019 arrived quietly this past Saturday, settling in for a six-month sojourn. And while Texans noticed a disturbance along Mexico’s Gulf Coast, residents of South Florida made an early visit to hardware and household supply stores to take advantage of the annual “tax free weekend” when stores don’t charge sales tax on storm-related purchases.
Three days before the seasonal kickoff, the global property information and analytics firm, CoreLogic,released its 2019 Storm Surge report, which said that “early predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate a near-normal year for the 2019 [Gulf and] Atlantic hurricane season.”
NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER REPORT — 2:00 AM EDT Tue Jun 4 2019 —- Disorganized Gulf System Near Mexico. 50 Percent Chance of Formation into Tropical Cyclone.
Heavy rainfall is also likely to spread over southeastern Texas and Louisiana through Thursday. An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft is scheduled to investigate the disturbance later today, if necessary. Interests along the Gulf coast of Mexico should monitor the progress of this system.
The professionals who addressed the media via computer cautiously addressed predictions for the June 1-to-Nov. 30 period. “I tend to go with the NOAA reports. They are provided by the best of the best,” said Curtis McDonald, meteorologist and senior professional at CoreLogic for product management. “Overall, their forecasts are great. But it only takes one storm to make landfall. We don’t want to look too closely into their [estimates].”
He suggested that the public should listen to predictions, but use care in making conclusions. “Consider Hurricane Michael,” which slammed the Florida Panhandle in 2018. “If it had gone a little to the left, it would have hit 10 times as many homes.”
Webinar speakers generally limited their presentations to statistics rather than nuts-and-bolts storm preparation. They said their research “shows more than 7.3 million single- and multifamily homes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts have the potential for storm surge damage, with a total estimated RCV of nearly $1.8 trillion.”
CoreLogic’s annual evaluation of the number of homes in the US vulnerable to storm surge in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Basin includes those in the coastal 19 states from Texas to Maine, a distance of some 3,700 miles.
The report also included associated RCV of these properties, calculated using the combined cost of construction materials, equipment and labor. The analysis examined risk across 19 states and 85 Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSA).
This is the first year the report analysis includes multifamily structures, which encompass apartments, condominiums and multi-unit dwellings, in addition to single-family homes.
“It is essential to understand and evaluate the total hazard exposure of properties at risk of storm surge prior to a hurricane event, so insurers can better protect and restore property owners from financial catastrophe,” said Dr. Jeffery.
“Damage from storm surge and inland flooding has proven to be far more destructive than wind in recent years, so we cannot rely on the hurricane category alone to give us a sense of the potential loss. A Category 5 hurricane in an area with few structures may be far less devastating than a Category 1 hurricane in a densely populated area.”
The webinar also offered the following information:
The Atlantic Coast contains 57% of total homes at risk of storm surge flooding (4.1 million) and 62.7% of total RCV ($1.1 trillion).
Conversely, the Gulf Coast contains 43% of homes at risk (3.1 million) and 37.3% of the total RCV — $668 billion.
Florida, Louisiana, New York and Texas have the greatest number of homes at risk of storm surge.
Florida has the most exposure to storm surge flooding, with more than 2.9 million homes at risk and RCV at more than $603 billion.
Louisiana has the second most exposure to storm surge flooding. In New York, the density of the residential population near the coast makes it extremely vulnerable to flooding despite less frequent hurricane events.
Texas ranks fourth with more than 561,000 at-risk homes and the fifth-highest RCV, $113 billion.
The New York, Newark and Jersey City metro area has the greatest risk of storm surge with just over 831,000 homes at risk and RCV of over $330 billion.
The Miami, Florida metro area that includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach follows the New York metro area with more than 827,000 homes at risk and an RCV of $166 billion.
Because of the density of residences in large metro areas, the top 15 CBSAs account for 67.5% of the total number of homes at risk and 68.9% of the total RCV for storm surge risk in the US.