November 4th, 2010

Update: Hurricane Tomas

Posted at 9:19 AM ET

tomas3-smallTomas has re-intensified into a tropical storm having been downgraded to a depression on November 3. The storm is expected to continue to move over the central Caribbean Sea and head towards Haiti, Cuba and Jamaica over the next 24 hours. Tomas is currently located approximately 160 miles (225 kilometers) south-southeast of Kingston in Jamaica and packs sustained winds of around 50 mph (85 kmph), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm is currently traveling in a north-northwest direction and a turn towards the north and then the northeast is expected over the next 48 hours. Forecasters said Tomas could re-intensify into a hurricane on November 5. On the forecast track, Tomas is expected to pass between western Haiti and eastern Cuba tonight and early tomorrow before tracking near or over the southeastern Bahamas. The NHC said tropical storm-force winds extend 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center of the storm.

The NHC has issued a hurricane warning for Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. A tropical storm warning is also in place for Jamaica, along with tropical storm watches for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba. The NHC added that a dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meters) within the warning areas. The surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves near the coast. Forecasters also warn that up to 15 inches (380 millimeters) of rainfall is expected over parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, potentially causing life threatening flash floods and mud slides. Rainfall of up to 6 inches (150 millimeters) is also possible over the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands and Jamaica could see up to 3 inches (75 millimeters).

tomas3-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.

Tomas has strengthened back into a tropical storm over the last 24 hours, according to the NHC. Favorable environmental conditions could see the storm become a category 1 hurricane as it approaches Haiti and Cuba (the NHC currently gives a 36 percent probability of Tomas re-intensifying into a category 1 hurricane). Tropical storm conditions are expected within the tropical storm warning area later today. Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area tonight and tomorrow. The latest NHC forecast has Tomas tracking across the Caribbean Sea in a general north-northeast direction over the next couple of days and passing between eastern Cuba and Haiti tomorrow. The latest forecast sees Tomas passing to the east of Jamaica and Cuba and to the west of Haiti, meaning Haiti would be hit by the storm’s strongest winds that are located to the north and east of the eyewall. However, there is still a degree of uncertainty associated with the forecast and the NHC said Tomas could potentially make landfall over eastern Cuba or western Haiti. Tomas is also expected to affect the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas as a category 1 hurricane after passing Cuba and Haiti.

Authorities in Haiti are struggling to adequately prepare for the storm’s arrival, and there is particular concern for the 1.5 million survivors of January’s 7.0 Mw 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 (UN) 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 around 440 people so far and sickened nearly 6,800 more. Widespread deforestation in Haiti also threatens to exacerbate the level of flooding. UN officials said the storm could not have come at a more difficult time. 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.

Elsewhere, authorities in Jamaica are evacuating hundreds of people from low-lying and flood-prone areas in eastern regions of the island and moving them into emergency shelters. Reports said Jamaica is still struggling to recover from floods unleashed by Tropical Storm Nicole in late September that killed at least 13 people and caused an estimated USD125 million in damage.

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. 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 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. Separately, EQECAT said economic damage in Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia is expected to be less than USD100 million.

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.

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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