Sunday, December 28, 2008

Unusually severe weather events challenged insurers in 2008

Insurance Information Institute: Preoccupied with the economic downturn and the U.S. presidential election, many Americans were unaware of the severe hurricanes and frequent tornadoes that caused billions of dollars in insured losses nationwide this year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Property/casualty insurers paid $24.9 billion to policyholders for losses incurred through the first nine months of 2008, ISO’s Property Claims Service found.

There were 16 named storms this Atlantic hurricane season, making 2008 the year with the fourth-highest number of named storms since such records started being kept in 1944. Nine of the named storms became hurricanes, three of which made landfall in the U.S.: Dolly (Texas, in July); Gustav (Louisiana, in September); and Ike (Texas, also in September). The three U.S. hurricanes combined produced more than $11 billion of the $24.9 billion in insured losses for the year between January and September 2008.

…Disaster losses along the coast are likely to escalate in the coming years, in part because of huge increases in development. It is predicted that catastrophe losses will double every decade or so due to growing residential and commercial density and the cost of rebuilding expensive properties.

Moreover, this year has been one of the deadliest U.S. tornado seasons in more than a decade. The average annual number of tornado-related deaths nationally for the 10 years, 1997-2006, was 62. Yet more than 120 people have died to date in U.S. tornadoes in 2008. About 1,000 tornadoes occur annually but at least 1,600 tornadoes struck the U.S. through the first nine months of the year, according to NOAA’s National Weather Service. The number of tornadoes in 2008 may rival the record set in 2004, when more than 1,800 twisters were reported.

Tornado in Kansas, May 22, 2008

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