March 31, 2023

A Minimum $10 Billion in Damages Is Estimated

Eqecat, a company that tracks natural disasters and estimates their cost, said it expected the storm’s total economic damages to range from $10 billion to $20 billion, which includes damage to homes and cars, and business lost because of the storm. The company said the insurance industry would be responsible for covering $5 billion to $10 billion of that, a smaller amount in part because insurers generally don’t cover the flooding of homes and businesses. A federal government insurance program would most likely pick up much of that uncovered cost.

Insurance payouts toward the lower end of the Eqecat estimate would be on par with the $6.4 billion insurers covered in Hurricane Rita in 2005. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the most expensive hurricanes, in inflation-adjusted dollars, were Katrina in 2005, with $47 billion in insured losses; Andrew in 1992, with $23 billion; Ike in 2008, with $13 billion, and Wilma in 2005, at $12 billion, all of it in Florida.

Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, said the property and casualty industry had the resources to absorb losses estimated for this storm. Until now, the industry had been having a year of minimal losses from natural disasters.

Eqecat noted that about 20 percent of the United States’ population lived in the areas exposed to Hurricane Sandy’s impact.

AIR Worldwide, a company that models hurricanes and estimates their damage, said the value of insured properties in New York State’s coastal areas was $2.7 trillion. The only state with hurricane exposure that has a higher total property value is Florida, with $2.8 trillion. Texas is a distant third.

Homeowners’ insurers with the biggest market share in New York State are State Farm, with 15.5 percent of premiums written; Allstate, with 15.2 percent; and Travelers with 10.9 percent. The figures, provided by SNL Financial, do not take into account reinsurance arrangements, which are typical in the property and casualty business and help spread risks across a larger group.

The largest auto insurers in New York State are Berkshire Hathaway, with 26 percent of the market; Allstate, with 18.1 percent; and State Farm, with 12.5 percent.

Leading commercial insurers in New York include the American International Group and State Farm, which has a large workers’ compensation program.

AIR Worldwide’s principal scientist, Tim Doggett, warned of possible record-setting storm surges in east-facing bays, such as Long Island Sound, Raritan Bay and the New York City Harbor. Manhattan’s sea walls stand five feet above the average sea level, and storm surges up to 11 feet are being predicted.

Standard homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover flood damage, nor do commercial policies, although auto insurance often includes coverage for flooding. This means much of Hurricane Sandy’s cost is likely to be borne by the National Flood Insurance Program, in which the federal government covers flood claims in communities that have adopted local flood plain management ordinances.

The program paid out $1.3 billion to cover claims in all states affected by Hurricane Irene in 2011. The industry racked up $4.3 billion in losses in that storm.

AIR Worldwide said the biggest unknown was what would happen in the days immediately after landfall; although the winds would slow, the storm was expected to linger in the region and could continue to wreak destruction in Washington, Pennsylvania and New York until as late as Wednesday.

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