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In a Battle of Hurricanes, Which Stormy Season Comes out on Top?

Insurance Business Magazine

The 2018 hurricane season might not have hit as hard as last year’s trifecta of Irma, Maria and Harvey, but Lane, Florence and now Michael have been no rain showers either. Data from CoreLogic indicated that Michael was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the US since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and estimates showed that wind and storm surge damage could range between $2 billion and $4.5 billion.

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“When you have a Category 4 storm coming at you, the thought process is ‘oh my god, this is basically a 140 mile-an-hour storm that’s coming my way,’ and the last one that did that quite frankly was Hurricane Katrina, and the one before that was Hurricane Andrew,” said Alan Rubin, principal in Blank Rome’s government relations practice and co-chair of the firm’s Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team.

“People really take that as their measurement of ‘this is really going to be serious’ and it kept getting downgraded as it marched towards the coast, so it went to a 3, and then they said it’s going to be a 2, and it actually hit as a 1. Some of the perceptions of the people who have gone through [hurricanes] and have lived through them are that, that’s a 75 mile-an-hour wind – I can withstand that.”

What people don’t realize, added Rubin, who is also a speaker at the upcoming Flood Risk Summit in Miami, is that storms are getting wetter in terms of rainfall and are bringing in more storm surge. During Hurricane Andrew, thousands of homes were blown down, but there wasn’t a ton of water damage, so that when homes were rebuilt, they weren’t facing mould issues and the underlying infrastructure hadn’t floated away.

“What people need to understand about hurricanes, and they need to understand around floods in general, [is that] water is a bigger problem than wind,” said Rubin. “The oceans are three to five degrees warmer than they were from 1992 when Andrew hit, maybe six in certain cases, and what that does is it gives energy to hurricanes, but it also builds a greater storm surge, and it builds greater rain because that’s where it gets its strength from.”

"In a Battle of Hurricanes, Which Stormy Season Comes out on Top?," by Alicja Grzadkowska was published in Insurance Business Magazine on October 17, 2018.