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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Hurricane Harvey Early Predictive Analysis with Wind and Storm Surge Data

August 31st, 2017 by Susan Smith

Front and center in the news right now is Hurricane Harvey and resulting devastation, which will most likely remain in the news for awhile.

Prior to Hurricane Harvey, GISCafe Voice spoke with Tom Jeffrey, CEO of CoreLogic, a leading global property information, analytics and data-enabled solutions provider that has conducted an analysis for the flooding and storm surge as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Many news reports have pointed out that there were an enormous number of people in flood zones who did not have flood insurance. CoreLogic’s analysis shows that 52 percent of residential and commercial properties in the Houston metro are at “high” or “moderate” risk of flooding, yet are not in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) as identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Properties that are within SFHA zones required flood insurance if the property has a federal insured mortgage, if categorized as Extreme or Very High risk.

This table shows the levels of flood risk, tracked by CoreLogic’s data for properties in seven metro areas that were likely to get severe rain and flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

Table 1: Total Properties at Risk by Flood Risk Level

    Inside Special Flood Hazard Area Outside Special Flood Hazard Area
Metro Area Total Properties Extreme Risk Very High Risk High Risk Moderate Risk Low Risk Very Low Risk
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos 701,325 7,233 15,628 52,622 74,451 66,110 485,281
Bay City 23,459 722 5,727 7,374 5,904 1,104 2,628
Beaumont-Port Arthur 194,610 1,990 19,774 39,096 67,090 19,531 47,129
College Station-Bryan 91,106 836 2,983 6,865 13,070 13,496 53,856
Corpus Christi 34,330 186 4,199 5,924 6,175 3,379 14,467
Houston-Sugarland-Baytown 2,340,343 57,077 211,851 494,983 715,202 287,098 574,132
Victoria 42,419 646 1,847 7,064 7,751 4,198 20,913

CoreLogic used their North Atlantic Hurricane Model to create wind and storm surge damage footprints for Hurricane Harvey using the track forecast data from the August 25, 10:00 a.m. CT advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center. The model tracks the multiple facets of hurricanes such as ocean flooding, wind and storm surge. The North Atlantic Hurricane Model analyzes the insured loss data to determine the expected loss range from the Hurricane Harvey event footprint in the model. Certified by the Florida Commission Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology (FCHLPM) since the inception of the process in 1997, the model provides a granular, up-to-date detailed risk assessment for the combined perils of hurricane winds and coastal storm surge flooding.

We can compare what Hurricane Harvey’s insured property loss estimates are with previous storms. In this model, it is projected that Harvey will result in $1-2 billion insured property damage while Celia was a stronger storm (category 4) and wreaked $3 billion worth of damage. Hurricane Ike made landfall near Houston and resulted in $11 billion worth of damage.

Hurricane Harvey was estimated to cause $1 billion and $2 billion from wind and storm surge damage. Left out of this equation are insured losses caused by additional flooding, contents and business interruption, as the flooding and rainfall is expected to last several days or weeks.  95 percent of the insurance claims are expected to be related to wind and less than 5 percent related to storm surge. At the time of the report, low exposure to Houston and other large metro areas was expected. However, while Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi, it went on to wreak great devastation in the city of Houston. In Houston alone, about 100,000 homes are damaged, according to Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert.

Of course these estimates are subject to change and interpretation as more data is revealed.

According to an analysis in the Washington Post, Hurricane Harvey could be the most expensive hurricane of all time, with an estimated $80 billion in damages so far.  These losses are not confined to insured property losses, as an estimated 80 percent of residents lack flood insurance where Harvey hit the hardest. Traditional insurance doesn’t cover flooding, so taxpayers will foot the bill for most of the rebuilding.

Flood insurance is required in places where FEMA designates a flood plain and high risk. Where American homeowners can get flood insurance is from the government-run National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). According to CoreLogic, NFIP will cover $9 billion. Private insurers, who cover flooding damage to businesses, will pay about $2 billion, according to AIR Worldwide, another catastrophe risk analysis firm.

Sadly, the projected $80 billion structural damages resulting from Harvey will far exceed the ability of the combined insurance coverage, which will cover less than 15 percent of that figure.

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Categories: analytics, asset management, Big Data, climate change, cloud, CoreLogic, data, disaster relief, emergency response, FEMA, field GIS, geospatial, GIS, Google, government, insurance, location based services, location intelligence, mapping, NASA, NOAA, public safety, remote sensing, resilient cities, satellite imagery, storm surge

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