September 17th, 2010

Hurricane Karl

Posted at 8:36 AM ET

fanapi-smallKarl developed in the northwestern Caribbean Sea on September 14 to become the 11th named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm subsequently made landfall near Puerto Bravo in Quintana Roo State on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on September 15 as a topical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Karl weakened as it moved over the Yucatan Peninsula but re-intensified as it exited the region and moved into the southern Gulf of Mexico. Favorable conditions here saw Karl rapidly intensify into a hurricane (becoming the sixth hurricane of the 2010 season and subsequently the fifth major hurricane) and Karl is expected to strengthen further as it approaches the coast of Veracruz State in Mexico.

According to the NHC, Karl is currently a category 3 hurricane, with the center of the storm presently located around 50 miles (80 kilometers) east-northeast of Veracruz in Mexico and 150 miles (240 kilometers) east-southeast of Tuxpan in Mexico. Karl currently packs sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kmph) and is moving towards the west at around 9 mph (15 kmph). Karl is expected to maintain this motion over the next 24 hours and, on this forecast track, the NHC says the storm will make landfall north of Veracruz in Mexico later today before moving inland towards Mexico City. The NHC said Karl could strengthen into a category 4 hurricane prior to landfall. At present, hurricane-force winds extend up to 25 miles (35 kilometers) from the center of the storm while tropical storm winds extend up to 105 miles (165 kilometers).

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Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or Instrat® representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

The NHC has issued a hurricane warning for the coast of Mexico from Veracruz to Cabo Rojo. A hurricane watch is also in place for areas north of Cabo Rojo to La Cruz. The NHC added that a dangerous storm surge will raise water levels as much as 12 to 15 feet (3.5 to 4.5 meters) along the immediate coast near and to the north of where the center makes landfall. Forecasters also said that up to 15 inches (380 millimeters) of rainfall is expected across the central and southern Mexican Gulf Coast region. The NHC warned the heavy rain could cause life threatening flash floods and mud slides.

Forecasters said Karl could make landfall between the port city of Veracruz (population of around 700,000 people) and the oil hub of Poza Rica, potentially affecting ports and oil installations located along Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Current forecasts suggest Veracruz City will be hit by tropical storm-force winds and is on the cusp of being impacted by hurricane strength winds. Forecasters said tropical storm conditions are already being felt within the hurricane warning area and hurricane conditions are expected to begin later today. However, forecasters expect Karl’s strongest winds (to the north of its center) will be located over a sparsely populated area, minimising the damage to built up towns and cities in the region.

Reports said authorities in Veracruz State are bracing themselves for a direct hit, preparing sleeping mats, bottled water and other supplies for anyone evacuating to shelters. Residents are also boarding up windows with sheets of plywood and reinforcing doors and signs to prevent them from being blown away by the hurricane’s powerful winds. The region has already been hit by unrelated floods this month and last and officials are concerned Karl could raise river levels again. Around 80,000 homes were damaged in the floods and at least nine people were killed. Offshore, Mexico’s state-run oil company, Pemex, said it had evacuated platforms in Karl’s path and halted production at 14 minor wells. Two of Mexico’s main oil exporting ports have also been forced to suspend operations, according to reports.

Earlier Karl made landfall near Puerto Bravo in Quintana Roo State on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula at 12:45 UTC on September 15, downing trees and causing power cuts. Karl packed sustained winds of around 65 mph (105 kmph) at landfall and up to 8 inches of rainfall (200 millimeters) fell in some parts. Civil protection officials said electricity was cut to tens of thousands of people and around 600 homes were flooded in the tourist city of Chetumal.

Sources: National Hurricane Center, WSI, Associated Press, Reuters News, Agence France Presse

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Guy Carpenter’s Instrat® department provides CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

Instrat also provides RISK-i reports for major technological or man-made events worldwide. These reports cover risks to property, transport and life including explosions, fires, crashes, engineering disasters and terrorist attacks that are likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email RISK.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or Instrat® representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

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