November 5th, 2010

Update: Hurricane Tomas

Posted at 9:01 AM ET

tomas4-small1Tomas intensified into a category 1 hurricane this morning on its approach to Haiti and Cuba. The storm is expected to track in between western Haiti and eastern Cuba today before heading towards the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Tomas is currently located approximately 175 miles (280 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince in Haiti and packs sustained winds of around 80 mph (130 kmph), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm is currently traveling in a northeast direction and this general motion with an increase in forward speed is expected over the next 24 hours. Forecasters said Tomas is expected to strengthen during this time but maintain its category 1 status. On the forecast track, Tomas is expected to pass through the Windward Passage today without making a direct landfall in either Haiti or Cuba before moving near or over the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands tonight or tomorrow. The NHC said hurricane-force winds extend 15 miles (30 kilometers) from the center of the storm while tropical storm-force winds extend 140 miles (225 kilometers), especially to the east of the center.

The NHC has issued a hurricane warning for Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cuban province of Guantanamo. A tropical storm warning is also in place for Jamaica and the Cuban provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguin. 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) in the warning area along the Haiti coast and up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) along the southeastern coast of Cuba. The surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves. 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 eastern Cuba, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands while Jamaica could see up to 3 inches (75 millimeters).

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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.

Tomas strengthened to become a category 1 hurricane this morning, according to the NHC. Tropical storm conditions are currently being felt in western Haiti and hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area later today. The latest NHC forecast has Tomas passing around 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the westernmost point of Haiti and some 20 miles (32 kilometers) to the east of Cuba. According to NHC data, the eastern tip of Cuba and western and central regions of Haiti are expected to be hit by tropical storm-force winds, with Haiti being subjected to the storm’s strongest winds that are located to the north and east of the eyewall. Tomas is also expected to affect the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas as a category 1 hurricane later today and early tomorrow. The storm’s intensity at this point will be determined by the amount of interaction with land as the storm passes Cuba and Haiti.

Strong winds and heavy rain associated with Tomas are currently being recorded in Haiti as aid agencies scramble to move as many people as possible into storm shelters. 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. The government has urged tens of thousands of people living in the camps to find better shelter, but many structures that would usually be used, such as schools and hospitals, are no longer standing.

Humanitarian organisations in Haiti are rushing to do what they can, 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 matters, 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 evacuated hundreds of people from low-lying and flood-prone areas in eastern regions of the island as Tomas approached. According to the NHC, Tomas passed around 80 miles (130 kilometers) to the east of Jamaica, meaning tropical storm-force winds remained offshore and residents on the island escaped the worst of the severe weather. No significant damage has been immediately reported in Jamaica.

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. 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. More information on the damage in the eastern Caribbean can be found by clicking here.

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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