November 2nd, 2010

Update: Hurricane Tomas

Posted at 9:14 AM ET

tomas-2-smallTomas has continued to move in a westerly direction in the Caribbean Sea as a tropical storm over the last 24 hours. The storm is currently located approximately 355 miles (750 kilometers) south of Port-au-Prince in Haiti and packs sustained winds of around 50 mph (85 kmph), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm is currently traveling in a westerly direction and a turn towards the west-northwest and then the northwest is expected over the next 48 hours. Forecasters said Tomas could re-intensify into a hurricane later this week. The NHC said tropical storm-force winds extend 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center of the storm. Earlier, Tomas swept over islands in the eastern Caribbean as a category 1 hurricane on October 30, causing significant damage and power outages in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The latest NHC forecast has Tomas tracking across the Caribbean Sea in a general west-northwest direction over the next couple of days before taking a sharp turn to the north and the northeast and heading in the general direction of Haiti. Tomas is expected to maintain its tropical storm status over the next 48 hours but forecasters said the storm could re-intensify to become a hurricane on November 4. The official NHC track sees Tomas making landfall in Haiti on November 5/6 as a strong category 1 hurricane as it moves in a northeasterly direction. The NHC forecast also suggests Tomas could affect the Turks and Caicos Islands by the weekend. However, long-term predictions are subject to change. Although model guidance is in good agreement with the NHC forecast track that takes it towards Haiti, forecasters said Tomas could still hit anywhere from the Dominican Republic to eastern Cuba. The center added there is also considerable uncertainty associated with Tomas’s forecast intensity.

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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.

Although no coastal watches or warnings are currently in effect, the NHC has urged residents in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti to monitor the storm’s progress. Authorities in Haiti are particularly concerned for the 1.5 million survivors of January’s 7.0Mw earthquake who are still living in tented camps vulnerable to strong winds and heavy rain. Aid agencies in Haiti are rushing to do what they can before the storm’s projected arrival, but workers are already stretched to the limit after struggling to deal with the devastation inflicted by the earthquake. The United Nations warned that up to 500,000 people in Haiti could be affected by Tomas. To compound the matter, the country is also struggling to recover from a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 300 people so far and sickened nearly 5,000 more. Tomas would be the first major storm to hit Haiti since January’s earthquake killed as many as 300,000 people and forced millions from their homes. It would also be the first tropical storm or hurricane to hit the island since 2008, reports said.

Earlier, Tomas swept over islands in the eastern Caribbean as a category 1 hurricane on October 30. Data from the NHC suggests all of Barbados was hit by tropical storm-force winds as Tomas passed around 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of the island while the storm brought hurricane-force winds to parts of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. Reports said wind gusts of up to 90 mph were recorded as Tomas skirted the islands. Damage assessments from the region suggest the storm’s powerful winds and heavy rain ripped roofs off buildings, toppled power lines and blocked roads with flooding and debris. According to reports, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) said Tomas has triggered a hurricane coverage insurance payout of USD12.8 million in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Preliminary calculations based on CCRIF’s modeled losses has the facility paying out USD8.5 million for Barbados, USD3.2 million for St. Lucia and USD1.1 million for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, reports added. The CCRIF said a final loss and payout calculation will be undertaken on November 13.

Officials said parts of Barbados, including the capital of Bridgetown, were badly hit by Tomas after several buildings and power lines were damaged by strong tropical-force winds. Disruption to power supplies and communication networks were also reported in Barbados. St. Vincent and the Grenadines also bore the brunt of the storm. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves described the damage in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as “the worst we have seen in living memory” after some 300 homes were severely damaged. Officials said the severe weather associated with Tomas cut power to thousands of households and forced around 1,000 people to move to emergency shelters. Significant crop damage was reported on the islands and widespread flooding also triggered landslides that blocked dozens of roads.

Severe damage was also reported in St. Lucia after the island was subjected to Tomas’s strongest winds located to the north and east of its center. Widespread flooding was also reported. Southern areas of St. Lucia were badly hit, particularly the towns of Soufriere and Vieux Fort. Reports said two bridges were damaged and left impassable in Vieux Fort, cutting the community off from the capital, Castries. St. Lucian officials also said the storm’s strong winds ripped roofs off a hospital, a school and a stadium and blew a large concrete cross from the roof of a century-old church. Widespread crop damage was reported and St. Lucian government officials estimated Tomas left more than USD100 million in damage. Officials said 14 people were killed in St. Lucia, most in Soufriere.

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

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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.

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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.

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