Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida

Posted 29/09/2022 – News

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida yesterday (at about 15:00 EST) having strengthened to a Category 4 Hurricane. As such it was one of the most powerful storms to strike the US in decades. It brought with it sustained winds of c150 mph and a storm surge of up to 18 feet to Florida’s west coast. Parts of Florida are expected to receive between 12 and 18 inches of rain as the storm moves slowly across the peninsula.

Although Ian rapidly weakened to a category 1 hurricane (with sustained winds of c90 mph), the full extent of damage will remain unknown for days or weeks, with power and communications disrupted in many areas and some emergency responders forced to wait for the return of daylight and safer conditions before beginning a full search and rescue operation. Florida Power & Light estimates that up to 2 million people were without power and the storm’s eyewall is expected to cause significant wind damage to buildings and infrastructure. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency is set to support the State government with rescue, medical and humanitarian support. Flights have been cancelled and local curfews are in place.

While no deaths have yet been reported in the US, Hurricane Ian killed two people in Cuba and a boat carrying 23 Cuban migrants sank on Wednesday in stormy weather east of Key West. Storm surges may impact the east coast of Florida this morning (local time) as Hurricane Ian moves into the Atlantic and turns north on a path towards Georgia and South Carolina, albeit as a tropical storm.

Alpha comment

There were a wide range of estimates as to the potential insurance losses from Hurricane Ian before it made landfall, that ranged from US$10bn to US$40bn (e.g. Karen Clark & Company US$32.5bn). Thankfully the storm moved slightly southwards before making landfall, taking the eye away from the more heavily populated Tampa Bay area. Whilst the extent of losses will not be known for some time, Alpha members may be reassured (i) that many Lloyd’s syndicates have been reducing their exposures to the state of Florida in recent years and (ii) it has otherwise been a relatively quiet hurricane season in the US. We are therefore hopeful, at this stage, that the losses will fall within cat budgets for most syndicates, but we will provide an update once more information is available.

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