More homes at risk of storm surge in Southwest Florida

Article Courtesy of The Herald-Tribune

By John Hielscher

Published July 27, 2016


More than 340,000 homes in Southwest Florida are at risk of hurricane storm surge, with a potential rebuilding cost topping $65 billion.

The Sarasota-Bradenton area ranked eighth among major U.S. metro areas for storm surge risk, according to an annual study by data provider CoreLogic.

Florida, surrounded by water, remains the state with the most homes at risk of a storm surge and with the highest reconstruction cost in the U.S.

Seven weeks into the 2016 hurricane season, CoreLogic says it has used more advanced data than in previous years to measure the potential damage that could be caused by a major storm.

That has added 20,500 Southwest Florida homes since last year to the list of properties that could be affected by a storm surge.

"Using more granular-level data has given us an even clearer picture of which homes are at risk of storm-surge damage," said Tom Jeffery, senior hazard risk scientist for CoreLogic.

"Despite the overall increases in risk, we were glad to see that the number and value of homes in the most extreme, and dangerous, category actually declined. It just goes to show the power of how advanced data can improve risk assessment at the property level."

A hurricane has not made landfall in the state since Wilma in October 2005. The last to affect Southwest Florida was Charley in 2004.

In Sarasota and Manatee counties, 250,615 homes are in areas of low to extreme storm-surge risk, CoreLogic said. They have an estimated reconstruction value of $47.3 billion.

A nine-unit condominium in the Florida Panhandle town of Seagrove Beach was condemned after it was damaged by storm surge from Hurricane Dennis in 2005. A new study shows that 23,176 homes in Southwest Florida would be affected by even the weakest storm's surge, 19,200 fewer than were rated at extreme risk last year.

Of those, 23,176 are at "extreme" risk, meaning they would be affected by even the weakest storm's surge. But with the company's new analysis, that is 19,200 fewer homes than were rated at extreme risk last year.

In Charlotte County, 93,069 homes are storm-surge candidates, with an estimated rebuilding cost of $18.3 billion. Among them are 23,924 homes that would be affected by any hurricane, some 20,500 less than last year.

Statewide, 2.7 million at-risk homes would cost more than $535.6 billion to rebuild.

Louisiana ranked second to Florida, with 800,521 homes at risk and a potential rebuilding cost of $184.3 billion.

Nationwide, more than 6.8 million homes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are threatened with hurricane storm inundation, with a reconstruction cost topping $1.5 trillion.

Hurricane forecasters are calling for a slightly below- to slightly above-average season this year. A typical season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project has forecast 12 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes. The prediction from Accuweather calls for 14 named storms and eight hurricanes, four of them major. The Weather Channel/Weather Co. projects 14 named storms and eight hurricanes, three of them major.

A decade without a hurricane has left Florida in its strongest standpoint ever to face the annual storm season.

Most private insurers are in good shape. The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe fund, a program that backs the private market as well as the state-owned Citizens Property Insurance, has enough cash to financially withstand a major storm.

Floridians still pay the highest average property insurance premiums in the country, at $2,115 a year for a typical homeowner’s policy. The national average, based on 2013 premiums, was $1,096, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.