Although Hurricane Laura was the strongest cyclone to strike Louisiana since 1856, damages were limited because it made landfall in a relatively sparsely populated area and the highest winds were confined to a narrow band around the eye of the storm, catastrophe modelers said Monday.
AIR Worldwide, a division of Verisk, estimated that insured losses to onshore property will range from $4 billion to $8 billion. Karen Clark and Co. estimated that onshore insured losses will reach $8.7 billion in the United States and $200 million in the Caribbean. Previously, CoreLogic estimated losses of $8 billion to $12 billion.
AIR said the vast majority of losses were in Louisiana, where Laura made landfall near Cameron on Aug. 27 with sustained winds of nearly 150 mph. The maximum storm surge from the hurricane was measured at 15 feet at a gauge on the Mermentau River at Grand Chenier.
“Residential buildings in and around Lake Charles saw significant damage to roofs of all geometries and with various roof cover types,” AIR Senior Vice President of Research Cagdas Kafali said in a statement. “Residential building envelopes were breached due to debris impacts and the damage was further exacerbated in many cases due to the impacts of storm surge. Residential homes in Louisiana are founded primarily on crawlspace and slab foundations, both of which are vulnerable when it comes to flood damage.”
Laura’s winds were of the same magnitude as the 1856 Last Stand hurricane, the strongest recorded tropical cyclone to make landfall in Louisiana. “The highest wind speeds were tightly wound around the storm’s center, resulting in a narrow swath of extensive damage,” Karen Clark & Co. said.
AIR said the hurricane’s storm surge was not as severe as expected, as the storm passed east of the Calcasieu Ship Channel, a waterway that connects Lake Charles with the Gulf of Mexico, and pushed less water forward.
KCC said even though the worst-case scenario storm surge did not materialize, significant flooding occurred in coastal areas. Due to extensive debris accumulation, roads have become impassable, delaying cleanup efforts in the most impacted areas.
Sources: AIR Worldwide, Karen Clark & Co.
*This story ran previously in our sister publication Claims Journal.