October 29th, 2012

Update: Hurricane Sandy

Posted at 2:40 PM ET

sandy-4-smallHurricane Sandy has continued to intensify to a 940 mb storm, with 90 mph winds, and expected landfall between coastal Delaware and Atlantic City. Sandy is a category-1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, and approaching category-2 status. This is a dangerous, large and historic storm, posing a greater threat than Irene (2011). Storm force winds extend outward over 450 miles.

Primary hazards will include storm surge for coastal and marine areas, inland flooding and hurricane force winds. Significant coastal and inland flooding can be expected, especially for points within 200 miles of the point of landfall. Flooding will be especially severe for coastal areas around Long Island and Manhattan, and coastal areas to Delaware. Storm force winds, with downed trees and powerlines, some structural damage, and power outages will affect most of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Damage severity and concentrations will be highest within 200 miles of the landfall point.

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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 GC Analytics®   representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

Significant damages and business disruption are possible for this dangerous and historic event. Eqecat has issued a statement indicating possible insured losses of USD5 billion to USD10 billion, and total economic losses of  USD10 billion to USD20 billion. Hurricane Irene caused insured losses on the order of USD4.3 billion. Losses of course depend greatly on actual impacts of Sandy during landfall this evening.

Sandy’s imminent danger to the affected population is of course foremost in our minds. Sandy has already become a killer storm, with a death toll exceeding 60 in Cuba, and unspeakable human suffering across the Caribbean.

Watches and Warnings

Local National Weather Service offices have assumed responsibility from the National Hurricane Center for watches and warnings for all points north of North Carolina.

Flood and wind watches and warnings have been posted over an exceptionally large area of the United States, including most of the Atlantic coast, and inland areas as far west as Lake Michigan, to Kentucky and Tennessee, and to North Carolina. The products can be found at www.weather.gov at a national level, and locally by typing in a zip code.

Coastal flood warnings have been posted for much of the U.S. Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Maine, and offshore warnings have been posted from Georgia to Maine. Marine warnings have also been posted for much of the Great Lakes including Lake Michigan, where wave heights could exceed 20 feet.

The greatest severity of hazards is expected within 200 miles of the forecast track of the storm, but storm-force winds can be expected over 500 miles away from the center of circulation.

Forecast

There has been little change to the forecast reasoning for Sandy since previous updates, although Sandy has been intensifying more rapidly than expected. Sandy has been drawing energy from the boundary between tropical and polar air, in addition to warmer waters of the Gulf Stream.

Sandy is expected to make landfall on the southern New Jersey Coast, or possibly along Delaware. Landfall will occur early this evening. This rapid and unusual turn to the northwest follows upper-level winds. Winds at landfall are expected to be 90 mph, as a historically intense and powerful post-tropical cyclone. Rapid weakening should occur following landfall, followed by a turn to the north towards Lake Ontario, although Sandy should remain a very large storm.

Hazards

1. Storm Surge and Damaging Waves

The most dangerous and costly hazard will be the storm surge for coastal areas. The historic size and intensity of this storm will drive strong easterly winds over a large swath of the Atlantic. Sandy will be making landfall almost perpendicular to the coast, bringing winds in an almost perfect direction to cause channeling and “piling” of water into tidal rivers along the coast, including areas around Long Island. These effects are different from those of Hurricane Irene (2011), which made landfall on a more parallel track to the coast, with northerly winds. The storm surge could last over a few tidal cycles, with the most severe effects this evening and tonight. The full moon will amplify these effects.

Storm surge levels are forecast as follows:

• North Carolina: 4-6 ft

• Virginia and the Delmarva, including the Lower Chesapeake: 2-4 ft

• Ocean City to the Connecticut/Rhode Island Border: 4-8 ft

• Long Island Sound, Raritan Bay, New York Harbor: 6-11 ft

• Connecticut/Rhode Island Border to Cape Cod: 3-6 ft

• Cape Cod to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Border: 2-4 ft

• Massachusetts/New Hampshire Border to the Canadian Border: 1-3 ft

Dangerous surf can be expected for coastal areas with waves well in excess of 20 feet, and over 40 feet offshore. Significant damage can be expected for coastal properties at particularly low elevations, with inundation of the first story of such structures. These effects will be particularly severe along the coast of New Jersey and New York. Tidal flooding can also be expected for areas noted above.

These storm surge levels are historical in nature, and may compromise the flood control walls in lower Manhattan, leading to possible and severe flooding.

Upstate New York can also expect to see dangerous conditions from Sandy. The weather service predicts that areas along Lake Erie’s eastern shore could see 10 to 15-foot waves Monday night, in addition to gale-force winds. Lake Ontario could experience waves up to 20 feet high.

2. Wind

Hurricane and Tropical Storm force winds extend outward from the center of circulation to 175 and 485 miles from the center, respectively.

Sustained tropical storm force winds are underway between Virginia to Long Island, with gusts over a much broader area. Hurricane force winds can be expected later today across the Mid-Atlantic States to Long Island.

Tropical storm force winds can be expected from North Carolina to Massachusetts, with gusts anywhere from North Carolina to the Great Lakes to Maine, including Atlantic Canada and the Saint Lawrence Valley.

Hurricane force winds can be expected from Virginia to Massachusetts.

The longest period of sustained winds will be felt in coastal areas, and most notably within 200 miles of the storm.

Light damage with downed trees and powerlines can be expected over a very large area of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S., including the Saint Lawrence Valley and Atlantic Canada, and as far west as Lake Michigan. Some roof damage and light structural damage can also be expected over this wide area. Damage concentrations and severity will increase for areas within 200 miles of the point of landfall, which is expected in south-coastal New Jersey.

Blocked roadways can be expected in the aftermath of the storm, and travel will be exceptionally dangerous during passage of the storm.

3. Excessive Rain

Rainfall amounts of 1-3 inches are expected for most of New York State and into New England, 3-6 inches for North Carolina, and 4-8 inches for the Mid-Atlantic States, with locally higher amounts to 12 inches. Rainfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour can be expected for many areas in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast

Urban stormwater management systems may become overwhelmed, particularly if impeded by leaves, or if drainage is impeded by storm surge, or if the system is simply overwhelmed by rainfall rates. This would cause significant urban flooding.

Some flooded roadways can be expected during and following storm passage.

4. Excessive Snowfall

Snowfall amounts of two to three feet are possible along the spine of the Applachians, and especially in West Virginia, with some locally higher amounts. One to two feet is expected in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia to the Kentucky Border. Twelve to 18 inches can be expected for other locations along the Appalachians.

Blocked roadways can be expected for affected areas.

Impacts

Sandy’s imminent danger to the affected population is of course foremost in our minds. Sandy has left unspeakable human suffering across the Caribbean. Mudslides, flooding, and contaminated water supplies have all caused significant hardship, particularly for residents of Haiti. The death toll is well over 60 for the Caribbean, with many fatalities reported in Cuba.

Significant damages and business disruption are possible for this dangerous and historic event. Eqecat has issued a statement indicating possible insured losses of USD5 billion to USD10 billion, and total economic losses of  USD10 billion to USD20 billion. Hurricane Irene caused insured losses on the order of USD4.3 billion. Losses of course depend greatly on actual impacts of Sandy during landfall early this evening.

New Jersey

While Hurricane Sandy is not expected to make landfall until Monday night, heavy rain and winds are already impacting parts of southern New Jersey. More than 8,000 homes and businesses across the state are without power. Both voluntary and mandatory evacuations were issued in towns across the state, with thousands of people having already evacuated.

Most of Atlantic City is already under water, according to the city’s public safety director. Rescues in the area have already been underway due to residents stranded in water-surrounded homes. Power outages have left thousands without electricity. Emergency officials said they expect conditions to deteriorate Monday evening with the high tide.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared on Monday that a southern-state landfall will cause areas surrounding the Raritan River to experience more flooding, while a more northern landfall will result in areas surrounding the Passaic River to experience more extensive flooding.

New York

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered evacuations affecting over 375,000 residents from parts of lower Manhattan to communities in the outer boroughs. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has closed the transit system in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Holland Tunnel and the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel will close Monday afternoon due to the flood risk.

Tropical storm conditions are being reported from North Carolina to Long Island, New York. Water levels nearly one foot deep have been reported along streets on the southern edge of Long Island. Storm surge is a significant concern for areas such as the Long Island Sound and the New York Harbor, where surge levels could reach up to 11 feet tonight. Forecasters also warn of winds on the upper levels of high rises, as the effects will be significantly stronger than on the ground.

Major American stock exchanges will be closed today and possibly Tuesday. Many large U.S. companies have postponed their quarterly earnings until later this week due to Sandy and the shut down of the financial markets.

While airports in the metropolitan New York City area are open, air carriers have ceased operations. Thousands of flights have been grounded in the northeastern U.S., impacting travel plans across the world.

Maryland

Effects from Sandy are also being felt in Maryland, where Governor Martin O’Malley reported that a fishing pier in the town of Ocean city was “half-gone.” The governor expects certain towns in the state to experience several days without power. Shelters have been set up in Baltimore to house those stranded by the storm.

Connecticut

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy expects the flooding in the state to be extensive, and urged residents to follow evacuation warnings

Washington D.C.

Federal government offices were closed to the public on Monday where forecasters expect to see 35 to 40 mile per hour winds and five to ten inches of rain. Local transit systems have been shut down due to Sandy.

Pennsylvania

Service from local transit systems in Philadelphia has been suspended. All flights at the airport have been cancelled and Amtrak services have been stopped (along with all other Amtrak northeast corridor transit).

North Carolina

Residents on North Carolina’s Outer Banks have already experienced flooding from Hurricane Sandy, but are expecting more with the high tide Monday evening. Emergency officials from Hyde County reported more than two feet of water in some areas.

Massachusetts

Officials have advised some residents along the coast to evacuate. A shut down of the public transportation system in Boston is expected today. Heavy rain, strong winds and power outages are already being reported in the area. Governor Deval Patrick announced that a storm surge over six feet was reported along the coast Monday morning.

Markets

Financial markets have closed, and a number of major U.S. companies have postponed quarterly earnings. Companies including Pfizer Inc., Thomson Reuters Corp. and NRG Energy Inc. have delayed earnings reports to later this week. The New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and CME Group will remain closed Monday and possibly Tuesday. Trading on the NYSE was last closed on Sept. 11, 2001, and last closed for a weather related event in 1985 (Hurricane Gloria). If the exchange remains closed Tuesday, it would be the first weather-related consecutive-day closing since 1888, when a blizzard left drifts of snow as high as 40 feet.

Aviation

Airports in the metropolitan New York City area are open, but air carriers are not operating. Major carriers such as American Airlines, United and Delta have cancelled all flights into and out of the major airports in New York, the nation’s busiest airspace. Nearly 7,500 flights had been cancelled for Monday and Tuesday, almost all related to the storm. Disruptions have been felt worldwide.

Oil

More than two-thirds of the East Coast refining capacity has been shut down. Hess Corp. said it was closing its 70,000-bpd refinery in Port Reading, New Jersey; and PBF Energy’s 180,000-bpd Paulsboro plant in southern New Jersey, across the Delaware River from the Philadelphia area.

Sources: National Hurricane Center (NOAA), Storm Prediction Center (NOAA), National Weather Service (NOAA), Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC/NCEP/NOAA), Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Presse.

Click here to read the previous update on this event >>

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Guy Carpenter publishes 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.

Guy Carpenter compiles 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.

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