Chicago — The insurance industry is starting to get a sense of the damage done by Hurricane Ike to Southeast Texas.
Boston-based catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide Corp. estimates that insured losses to onshore properties in the United States from the storm are between $8 billion and $12 billion, with an expected loss of $10 billion.
Hurricane Ike made landfall at Galveston, Texas at 3:10 am EDT, September 13, as a strong Category 2 hurricane. Maximum sustained winds at landfall were 110 mph, just shy of Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.
Early damage reports include the destruction of several buildings lining the seawall. Several house fires in Galveston burned unchecked as firefighters were prevented from reaching them because of flooded streets and homes across the island are reported to have been damaged by Ike's winds.
“As expected, Houston's highrise buildings are reported to have sustained major damage to glazing, much like the damage caused by 1983's Hurricane Alicia,” says Dr. Peter Dailey, director of atmospheric science at AIR Worldwide. “Hurricane Ike, which was an extremely large storm at landfall, has been weakening only slowly and has maintained a wide swath of damaging winds. AIR predicts wind damage to be widespread, not only along the coast, but also extending well over 200 miles inland from Galveston.”
As indicated, AIR expects significant damage to glazing in Houston's highrise commercial buildings. However, because such buildings are well-engineered and built to stringent code, AIR does not expect significant structural damage. On the other hand, while highrise apartments and condominiums usually receive a similar degree of engineering attention as highrise commercial construction, they often have building components that make them more susceptible to windstorms, including balconies, awnings and double sliding glass doors.
Flooding continues to be a major concern despite the fact that the 20 foot storm surge that the National Hurricane Center had warned of failed to materialize. According to information released this morning by the National Weather Service, the highest recorded surge was 13.5 feet, seen at Sabine Pass, Texas. Galveston Island recorded an 11-foot surge.
New York-based Deloitte LLP says Ike may to amount to $20 to $25 billion of total insured losses, including the National Flood Insurance Program, of which around $10 to $20 billion will go to the commercial insurance and reinsurance industry and the balance to the NFIP.
This estimate is consistent with Ike being the third-largest insured hurricane loss, after Katrina and Andrew, and probably the fourth-largest insurance loss of all time, after Katrina, 9/11 and Andrew.
Sources: AIR Worldwide Corp., Deloitte LLP
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