October 13th, 2010

Update: Hurricane Paula

Posted at 9:01 AM ET

paula2-smallPaula has strengthened over the last 24 hours to become a category 2 hurricane. The storm is currently located approximately 60 miles (95 kilometers) east-northeast of Cozumel in Mexico and packs sustained winds of around 100 mph (160 kmph), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm is currently traveling in a northerly direction and a turn to the northeast with a decrease in forward speed is expected later today. On this forecast track, Paula is expected to pass through the Yucatan Channel (between Mexico and Cuba) today before taking a turn to the east and moving near or over western Cuba tonight and tomorrow. The NHC said Paula is a small storm, with hurricane-force winds extending 15 miles (30 kilometers) from the center and tropical storm-force winds extending 60 miles (95 kilometers).

The NHC has issued a hurricane warning for the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Punta Allen to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel and Cancun. A hurricane warning is also in place for the western Cuban province of Pinar Del Rio. Forecasters said Paula is expected to dump up to 10 inches (250 millimeters) of rainfall over parts of western Cuba while the Yucatan Peninsula can expect up to 3 inches (75 millimeters). The NHC warned the heavy rain could cause life threatening flash floods and mud slides in Cuba. The NHC added that the storm surge associated with Paula will raise water levels by up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) above normal tide levels along the extreme western coast of Cuba while large waves are expected to cause minor coastal flooding along the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

paula2-big

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.

According to the NHC, Paula is forecast to pass the Yucatan Peninsula today before a change in steering currents is expected to prompt Paula to take a turn to the east and skirt or hit western Cuba over the next 24 to 48 hours. Forecasters said some fluctuation in strength is possible over the next 12 hours before more sustained weakening is expected to see Paula become a category 1 hurricane or tropical storm as it encounters increased wind sheer and nears the Cuban coastline. Forecasters said tropical storm-conditions are expected to hit the Yucatan coast within the hurricane warning area in the next few hours, with hurricane conditions possible later this morning. Tropical storm-force winds are expected to reach extreme western areas in Cuba later today, with hurricane conditions forecast by tonight.

The latest NHC forecast has Paula passing around 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the east of the of the Yucatan coast. EQECAT said Paula is expected to cause insured losses of less than USD200 million, but stressed the estimate was sensitive to the storm’s track and the severity of sustained winds and flooding in Mexico. Indeed, the latest most likely NHC forecast track for Paula has shifted approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) to the east from the forecast issued 24 hours previously, meaning parts of the Yucatan Peninsula (including the major tourist resort of Cancun) may not be hit by hurricane-force winds. However, some uncertainty remains over Paula’s path and the NHC warned that the storm could still clip the Yucatan northeastern coastline and bring hurricane conditions to the region. Mexican authorities have therefore evacuated around 2,500 people from the island of Holbox in Quintana Roo State.

The longer-term NHC forecast has Paula moving towards western Cuba tonight and tomorrow. However, the NHC has stated there is a degree of uncertainty associated with the forecast track and some models still have Paula shifting further north and heading towards Florida. Guy Carpenter will closely monitor Paula’s progress and update this report on October 14.

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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