Insurers are readying for the impact of Hurricane Dorian, which has already taken several lives and, according to the Red Cross, left at least 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the Bahamas.
“If it comes on shore into the United States, depending on where it actually makes its greatest impact — whether it’s the Category 4 that it is now or [a] Category 2 as it gets into the Carolinas and Virginia — any number of insurance companies throughout the East Coast markets can be affected by it,” Daniel Odess, the president of GlobalPro Recovery, an insurance risk and recovery firm, told Cheddar.
“There’s such a wide range because we’ve had such drastic changes to the insurance markets here in Florida, as well as up through the East Coast.”
The storm is expected to head closer toward Florida’s east coast later Tuesday evening.
While the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 3 storm early Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported that “dangerous winds and life-threatening storm surge” are expected to continue in the Bahamas for much of the day. The country’s prime minister has already confirmed at least five deaths.
The investment bank UBS has also estimated that Hurricane Dorian will cost insurance companies about $25 billion in losses — up from its previous base estimate of $15 billion — and predicted a wider potential range of losses between $5 billion and $40 billion.
But, Odess warned, it’s generally too early to tell what the impact of the current storm might be. He pointed to 2017’s Hurricane Irma, saying: “There is nearly 10 percent of the claims are still open. So we don’t even really know what the full value of those losses were.”
In February, the Sun Sentinel reported that losses from Hurricane Irma are now 26 percent greater than had been estimated originally.
Another factor in potential costs is adaptation.
“It’s a major impact. You’ve seen the changes in building materials. There’s a revolution going on with regards to continuity and sustainability in communities,” Odess said. “There’s a lot of focus on sea-level rise, but as you noted, these winds and these extreme rain events are becoming more frequent.”