Although El Niño may help quiet the 2019 season, it only takes one storm to cause serious losses. Not to mention, back-to-back storms to wreak operational havoc. Each landfalling hurricane is unique, and brings with it much more than the hurricanes itself: inland flooding, wind, storm surge, hail, and even tornadoes. Beyond the loss exposure, insurers must deal with operational and organizational strain. It’s a season when, perhaps more than any other, insurers need to have their proverbial “ducks in a row.” This means preparing now for the possibility of the worst.
While the 2019 hurricane forecast is quite favorable (NOAA is predicting a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season with 4 to 8 hurricanes and 2 to 4 of them major), it comes with the reminder that it only takes one. Being prepared means being able to handle the trend of back-to-back hurricanes like we saw in 2017, along with the intensity of hurricanes like Michael and Florence in 2018. As you recall, Florence stalled and brought massive inland flooding to the Carolinas. And, six months after making landfall, Hurricane Michael was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane by NOAA scientists who determined wind speeds had reached 160 mph at landfall.
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At a glance:
Hurricane Michael has rapidly intensified. Now the question is, will it hold its strength with landfall? According to forecasters, Hurricane Michael's rapid intensification over the past two days, despite shifting winds, "defies traditional logic." Michael is expected to make history, as it will be the strongest hurricane to ever come ashore (since 1851) along the Florida Panhandle. Hurricane warnings are currently posted for the Florida Gulf coast from the Alabama/Florida border to Suwanee River, Florida, including Pensacola, Panama City, Destin and Tallahassee.
While we would like to think last year’s hurricane season was an anomaly, recent NOAA research points to more frequent and severe hurricanes due to climate warming. This means re/insurers, MGAs, and brokers alike, will need to become more proficient at the job of operationalizing sophisticated hazard data. As a 2017 report from McKinsey & Company found, “...a large operational performance gap remains. These disasters will likely demonstrate significant value for those insurers that have made the investment in digital tools. Insurers that have not and were highly exposed to the hurricanes will find their operations severely challenged….”
Just a year ago Hurricane Harvey was making landfall on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Now, the projected hurricane season looks quite different, having been downgraded most recently by NOAA. It would be easy to become complacent—if not for Hurricane Lane, a Category 4 cyclone, barreling down on the Hawaiian islands. We may not see a string of hurricanes like last season, but Hurricane Lane is a reminder that it does, in fact, only take one hurricane. There’s no time like the present to learn from the past and get your operational “ducks in a row”.
Hurricane Lane barrels towards Hawaii (photo courtesy of cbsnews.com)
Almost exactly one year after Hurricane Harvey dropped 50 inches of rain on Texas, Hurricane Lane, a Category 4 cyclone, is now barreling towards the Hawaiian islands, with its outer rainbands already drenching the Big Island. Forecasters say that it’s on course to move very close to the islands, or, make landfall from Thursday through Friday. With the likelihood of a direct hit growing, authorities have urged residents to set aside two weeks worth of food and water.
There’s a scene in the movie “This is 40” where Leslie Mann turns to her husband, played by Paul Rudd, and says, “You should care more.” Frustrated by her husband’s ambivalence, Leslie makes a simple, yet fundamental statement. Like many of us, her husband doesn’t appreciate being told what to do. And therein lies the problem (not the husband, ha)—but rather that caring shouldn’t be forced, it should be inspired. Fact is, if we don’t care, we don’t grow. But, when caring is abundantly demonstrated, it becomes infectious.
Hurricane track above Earth; photo courtesy of The Atlantic
Feeling a bit apocalyptic out there? Four back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria), coupled with wildfires and earthquakes, have left many North Americans, in particular, wondering is this the new norm? Or, is this what we should have expected from the 2017 hurricane season? (Read on and tweet us @spatialkey to cast your vote).