It only takes one destructive storm to cause massive losses. Are your clients ready?
Though forecasters predict 2017’s hurricane season may be less severe than 2016, the potential for catastrophic damage still hovers over the landscape. In its recently released outlook, the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project team foresees a slightly below average hurricane season this year, with 11 named storms churning from within the Atlantic between June 1 and November 30.
Of those 11 storms, four will eventually turn into full-blown hurricanes, with two of those strengthening into a category 3-5 storm with winds at or exceeding 111 miles per hour. Those numbers are a falloff from 2016, but according to the CSU report, 2017’s predicted hurricane season represents roughly 85% of an average season while last year’s hurricane activity rose 135% above the average.
Conditions Ripe for a Below-Average Season
CSU researchers base their prediction on two emerging weather movements: an unusual cooling trend recently detected in the tropical Atlantic and the likely return of El Niño, an occasional climate phenomenon that warms up the waters of the Pacific off the coast of South America.
El Niño ranked as one of several factors leading the CSU team to make its prediction. Pouring over 60 years of data, researchers also analyzed Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, and vertical wind shear levels — the change in wind direction and speed in relation to height in the atmosphere.
From that data, the CSU team concluded 2017 mirrors the years of 1957, 1965, 1972, 1976, and 2002, when hurricane activity sunk below the average. In particular, 1972 was “well below-average season,” Phil Klotzbach, Research Scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report, said.
For property owners and insurers, the most important prediction is whether a major hurricane will make landfall, bringing with it flooding and strong winds. Based on a below-average season, the probability of a hurricane crossing land along the entire U.S. coastline projects at 42% versus a 52% average over the past century. Two regions — the eastern U.S. including the Florida peninsula and the Gulf Coast stretching from the Florida panhandle to Brownsville, Texas — both stand a 24% chance of a hurricane moving inland, down from 31% and 30%, respectively. The likelihood of a hurricane coming ashore in the Caribbean is estimated at 34%; the historical average in that area is 42%.
Start Prepping Now
Even a below-average hurricane can cause catastrophic destruction if conditions change and homeowners are unprepared. Warmer temperatures, like those typically associated with El Niño, mean fewer but more forceful hurricanes. El Niño also portends erratic weather patterns, so homeowners and their agents should not be lulled into a false sense of security by a prediction of a less than severe hurricane season. Last year’s Hurricane Matthew produced $4 billion in damage along the East Coast, as reported CoreLogic — and that was just one storm.
Instead, agents must talk to their clients now before hurricane season begins. Know where they live and if they are in the probable path of a hurricane. If that is the case, find out what their policy covers and if they require extra coverage, such as flood insurance.
Encourage your clients to prepare for extreme weather by developing an emergency plan and taking some precautions. High winds wreak havoc on roofs, so advise your clients to inspect and repair their roofs if needed. Before a storm hits, recommend your clients cover windows with plywood.
Business clients feel the impact of hurricanes, too. Flooding can decimate stock, machinery, and electronics. Therefore, urge your commercial policyholders to back up vital data and protect materials from water damage or move those items to a safe, secure place.
After a storm hits, it’s too late to discuss what a homeowner or commercial property policy does — or does not — cover. Preparing for the worst now reduces policyholders repair costs and lessens the disruption of their lives.