Insurers, catastrophe modelers and brokers are scrambling to prepare for and keep up with Hurricane Florence.
The massive storm is slated to bring heavy winds and rainfall to the southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States on Thursday, before making landfall by early Friday. That means affected parts of the insurance industry are using the lead-up time to ready claims services and monitor the Category 4 storm for any change of course or intensity.
Pete Dailey, vice president, Americas for catastrophe modeler RMS, noted that Florence is unusual, in part because only nine major hurricanes over the past 167 years made landfall on the North and South Carolina coastline. He warned in his commentary on the storm that the hurricane also has significant flood potential beyond the usual coastal flooding risks. That’s because it is carrying major levels of moisture that will come down as rain as the storm heads inland and stalls, coming on top of a region that has already been saturated from an unusually wet summer.
“Unfortunately, the hurricane is expected to slow down and possibly stall soon after making landfall, which will lead to prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, making the risk of catastrophic flooding even higher,” Dailey said.
AIR Worldwide noted late Tuesday morning that Florence, already at Category 4, could intensify into a Category 5 storm within a day. Up to 15-20 inches of rain are expected in some regions along the coast and inland as the storm slows, with isolated areas of North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina at risk of getting as much as 30 inches of rain through Saturday, AIR Worldwide noted.
Below is a sampling of some insurer preparations for the storm:
- Zurich North America said it has activated its CAT response plan. The insurer’s Catastrophe Operations Team is contacting claims adjusters and vendors to clear their schedules for the days ahead, and also securing the services of specialists such as forensic accountants, building consultants, risk engineers and mitigation contractors so they can mobilize as needed. The insurer’s customer service group is reaching out to customers in the region to make sure they have the help they need.
- GEICO’s catastrophe response team is in the process of deploying, with the insurer encouraging customers to prepare for the storm. GEICO is urging customers to make sure they have documentation in hand for potential claims, make supply kits and have an evacuation plan in place, among other preparations.
- USAA notified customers on its website about preparation tips, also sending texts and emails to customers urging them to “listen to local authorities to protect you and your family.” The message also included a link to guide customers through filing a storm claim.
An early CoreLogic analysis from Sept. 10 suggested that close to 760,000 homes in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia were at risk for damage from Hurricane Florence. According to the property information and analytics firm, these homes have a reconstruction cost value surpassing $170 billion.
Broker and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson said it is following Hurricane Florence and launched its Disaster Response Center portal, which is designed to be a one-stop hub for clients.
The Willis Towers Watson portal will give clients storm updates and hurricane preparedness resources, including safety planning, business continuity planning and a claims hotline.
As well, Willis Towers Watson said it has more than 100 specialized consultants in its National Property Claims and Forensic Accounting and Complex Claims businesses ready to help clients who may have assets in the path of the storm.
The broker said it is also proactively working with insurance carriers to help assess and make sure there’s access to restoration and recovery resources.
Sources: RMS, AIR Worldwide, USAA, GEICO, Willis Towers Watson, CoreLogic