October 30th, 2012

Update: Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy

Posted at 4:22 PM ET

sandy5-smallSandy made landfall on Monday October 29, at about 8PM EDT (00:00 UTC October 30), as a powerful post-tropical cyclone or “frontal system.” Maximum sustained winds at landfall were 80 mph, with a minimum pressure of 946 mb. Sandy made landfall just south of Atlantic City, New Jersey, but its effects were and continue to be felt as far away as Maine, Lake Michigan, and Tennessee. The Northeast has not seen a storm of this size or intensity in recorded history. Sandy was different from Irene (2011) because of its size, intensity, approach to the coast and structure.

Impacts were widespread and severe. Severe coastal damage and flooding was reported from North Carolina to Massachusetts, with highest severity from New Jersey to Long Island. Reports also include tidal flooding in Manhattan causing power outages, urban and rural flooding, with downed trees and power lines over an exceptionally large area. Millions of customers are or were without power, and many mass transit systems are on shut down including New York and Philadelphia. Airlines and Amtrak are not servicing the northeast at this time due to safety concerns (such as a flooded runway at LaGuardia).

sandy5-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 GC Analytics®   representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

Eqecat loss estimates are on the order of USD5 billion to USD10 billion in insured losses, and USD10 billion to USD20 billion in economic losses. Insured losses with Irene were on the order of USD4.3 billion. It will take some time to fully assess the impacts, and of course our thoughts and concerns are with those immediately affected by this unprecedented event, and with those whose lives have been lost during this event.

Watches and Warnings

Local National Weather Service offices have assumed responsibility from the National Hurricane Center for all watches and warnings for this event. Specific products can be found at www.weather.gov at a national level, and locally by typing in a zip code on the same site.

Flood and wind watches and warnings have been posted over an exceptionally large area of the United States, including states of the Mid-Atlantic, the Northeast, the Great Lakes to Lake Michigan and the Central and Southern Appalachians. Storm-force winds can be expected over 500 miles away from the center of circulation. It is also important to note that flood stages of major waterways often peak a few days after the rain has ended.

Blizzard warnings have been issued along parts of the Appalachians, where well over two feet of snow have already been reported. Winter storm warnings and advisories have also been posted from extreme Western Maryland to Eastern Tennessee, including Eastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina.

Storm and 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 and storm warnings have also been posted for much of the Great Lakes including Lake Michigan, where large and dangerous waves are expected.

Meteorological Summary and Forecast

Sandy was different from Irene (2011) because of its size, intensity, approach to the coast and structure.

The day prior to landfall, Sandy continued to draw energy from the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and even more from the boundary between tropical and polar air. The cyclone was able to aggressively regenerate into a 940 mb storm, with 90 mph winds. A 940 mb pressure is associated with a category-3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, 90 mph winds are associated with a high-end category-2 hurricane. The cold air caused the storm to alter its characteristics and transform into a significant “nor-easter” type of storm, affecting a historically large area of the northeastern U.S. Sandy made landfall last night as an 80 mph subtropical storm, with a minimum pressure of 943 mb.

Sandy has been steadily weakening since landfall last night as a post-tropical (or frontal) cyclone. Sandy is expected to make a sharp turn to the north today, approaching Lake Ontario through Western New York, and moving into Canada within the next 48 hours. Sandy still carries storm and even hurricane force wind gusts. Excessive rainfall and wind gusts can be expected at least 500 miles from the center of circulation. The greatest threat for extreme winds is across New England including Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Some isolated tornadoes are possible in these areas.

Hazards

1. Residual Storm Surge

A residual storm surge will pose an ongoing hazard through the next two tidal cycles, although to a lesser extent than historical levels reported last night. Surge levels should be four feet or less, with peak levels around Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay.

Coastal flooding along the Great Lakes is also possible.

All areas impacted will be subject to large and dangerous waves.

2. Wind

Storm force wind gusts can be expected well away from the center of the cyclone for the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic, the Central and Southern Appalachians and the Great Lakes.

Light damage with downed trees and power lines can be expected over these affected areas, as well as the Canadian Great Lakes, the Saint Lawrence Valley and Atlantic Canada. Roof damage and light structural damage, and that caused by falling trees will be widespread. Damage concentrations and severity will increase for areas approaching the point of landfall and into New England.

Blocked roadways can be expected in the aftermath of the storm due to downed trees and power lines. Travel will be dangerous until crews have cleared these obstructions.

3. Excessive Rain

An additional inch of rainfall is expected from the Eastern Great Lakes across the Mid-Atlantic into Southern New England. Total rainfall amounts generally range from two to five inches for affected areas, with six to ten inches for the Mid-Atlantic States, New Jersey and Southern Pennsylvania.

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

4. Excessive Snowfall

Total snowfall amounts of two to three feet are expected for Western Maryland and West Virginia, with one to two feet expected for mountainous areas of Southwestern Virginia and Eastern Kentucky and the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

Blocked roadways can be expected for affected areas.

Impacts

It will take some time to fully assess the impacts of Sandy, and of course our thoughts and concerns are with those immediately affected by this unprecedented event. Sandy has affected millions from the Caribbean to Maine, and continues to pose a threat to those from the Great Lakes to the Mid-Atlantic to Atlantic Canada. At least 33 have been killed in the United States and Canada by Sandy, in addition to at least 69 across the Caribbean.

Downed trees and power lines have been reported for a vast area of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern States. Some structural damage has also been reported. Damage concentrations from the point of landfall to Massachusetts are highest, particularly in those areas affected by storm surge. Long Island and New Jersey sustained the worst of the coastal flooding impacts.

At least 8.1 million homes are without power. More than 16,000 flights have been cancelled. Many refineries along the East Coast including Philadelphia are conducting damage assessments and increasing capacity if deemed safe. Floodwaters endangered a cooling system at one nuclear reactor, but the problem was quickly controlled without any hazard; two other reactors were reduced to minimal capacity during the storm.

Eqecat issued a statement yesterday estimating 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. Other sources indicate potential economic losses on the order of USD50 billion. European stock markets, oil markets, airlines and insurance companies have all been affected by the storm. The closure of Wall Street for a second day, the first time since September 11, 2001, has led to decreased volume worldwide.

New Jersey

At least three deaths have been reported in the state, and more than two million homes and businesses are without power. According to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the amount of damage to New Jersey is so extensive that it will take one to two days to fully grasp the impact. The governor reported that homes had been washed out into highways, and that major damage had been sustained on each of New Jersey’s rail lines, including trees, debris and even boats on the tracks. The PATH system also sustained severe damage, with Governor Christie estimating that it will take at least a week before it is operational again. The New Jersey Transit System is suspended, with no known date for the return of service. With the current level of devastation, the governor expects the recovery effort for the state to take months.

Many towns are experiencing major flooding, including the city of Hoboken. A levee in Moonachie, a borough in northern New Jersey, broke early Tuesday, submerging the area in water and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents. At least 1,000 more residents may eventually need to be evacuated. Much of the town of Seaside Heights is reported to be under water. According to the governor, homes have been lifted off of their foundations and parts of the amusement piers have washed into the ocean. Parts of Atlantic City suffered extensive flooding. Rescue missions are currently underway to help those stranded in their homes in the town where Sandy made landfall.

New York

The number of storm-related deaths is at least 17, with 10 of them in New York City. Almost two million homes and businesses are experiencing power outages. A backup power system failed in one of the city’s major hospitals, causing the evacuation of patients to nearby hospitals. According to power company Con Edison, it may take up to a week for electricity to be restored to the majority of Manhattan neighborhoods. The transit system suffered extensive damage, where water flooded subway tunnels. Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, stated that the storm caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of the New York subway system. According New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it may be another four to five days before subway service is restored.

A construction crane dangled precariously atop a high-rise building in midtown Manhattan, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people in the area surrounding it.

About 60 people are reportedly stuck on New York’s Fire Island with no electricity or safe drinking water, after disobeying mandatory evacuation orders. Rescue crews are working on helping those stranded.

In Queens, nearly 100 homes were destroyed by a fire in the Breezy Point neighborhood. The cause of the fire is not immediately known. Three injuries but no deaths have been reported.

LaGuardia Airport has reported a flooded runway.

Pennsylvania

Over one million homes and businesses are suffering from power outages, where wind and flooding closed more than 200 bridges and roads. Five fatalities have been reported in the state.

Connecticut

Two fatalities have been blamed on Sandy. More than 600,000 homes and businesses are experiencing power outages. According to Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, thousands are stranded along the coast due to the rising waters.

Maryland

One death was reported in the state and nearly 300,000 are without power. Four unoccupied rowhouses in Baltimore were said to have collapsed in the storm. Residents and tourists in the town of Ocean City are dealing with floodwaters due to Sandy. Snow affected traffic in western parts of the state.

West Virginia

One fatality was blamed on Sandy after a woman was killed in a traffic accident. Parts of the state received more than a foot of snow. More than 200,000 homes and businesses are without electricity.

Washington D.C.

Federal and local government offices, public schools and the metro system will continue to be closed today. More than 25,000 homes and businesses in the area are without power.

North Carolina

One death was reported in the state when a woman was pulled from the Atlantic Ocean after abandoning a ship during the storm. Over 6,000 homes and businesses in the state are without power. Western portions of North Carolina could see up to a foot of snow.

Maine

The port of Portland has been shut down and almost 90,000 homes and businesses are without power. Additional damage could occur with rain and gusty winds continuing on across the state today and tomorrow.

Massachusetts

Nearly 300,000 homes and businesses are without power. Downed trees and damaged roofs plagued parts of the state, however, no deaths or injuries have been reported.

Delaware

Flood waters were reported in the communities of Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach. More than 45,000 homes and businesses are without power.

Vermont

High winds toppled trees and power lines in the state. More than 10,000 homes and businesses are without electricity.

Ohio

More than 250,000 homes and businesses are experiencing power outages as Sandy’s high winds and rain continue to batter the state.

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, Forbes, CNN, Wall Street Journal.

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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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