The third quarter of 2017 is likely to break a new record as one of the costliest quarters for natural catastrophes, according to Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development team.
“The month of September was exceptionally busy and marked by the most active month on record in the Atlantic Ocean for hurricanes based on combined strength and longevity,” said Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting’s director and meteorologist.
As a result, when September’s event impacts are combined with those from July and August, Bowen affirmed that “the third quarter of 2017 is expected to tally as one of the costliest quarters ever registered for natural disasters.”
His comments accompanied the latest Impact Forecasting report titled Global Catastrophe Recap – September 2017.
“The most prolific damage resulted from Hurricane Irma’s impact across the United States and the Caribbean, and Hurricane Maria’s track through the Caribbean,” he said.
“These events were poised to cause a heavy financial burden for federal governments and the insurance industry,” Bowen continued.
Another major impact during the month of September were two major earthquakes in Mexico as well as a powerful aftershock, he said.
The Impact Forecasting report discussed the details of September’s hurricanes and the Mexico earthquakes:
- Hurricane Irma crossed through the northern Caribbean as a Category 5 hurricane, before making landfall in the United States to become the first Category 4 landfall in Florida since 2004 when Hurricane Charley hit the region. At least 124 people were killed or missing and hundreds more were injured, following periods of exceptionally gusty winds, high surf, storm surge, torrential rains and inland flooding. Major damage was noted in the United States, Cuba, Barbuda, the Virgin Islands, and the northern Leeward Islands.
- Hurricane Maria became the second landfalling Category 5 hurricane in a matter of weeks, when it struck Dominica and grazed St. Croix. The storm later crossed Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm – the strongest to hit the island since 1932 – resulting in catastrophic damage. Additional damage was noted in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. At least 78 people were confirmed dead and many others were considered missing.
With assessments still ongoing for both Irma and Maria, Impact Forecasting said, it remains too early to provide a specific economic or insured loss estimate for each event – especially given the prolonged business interruption impact. The overall financial toll of each storm is expected to reach well into the tens of billions of dollars. In each instance, public and private insurers faced payouts considerably exceeding US$10 billion.
- Mexico’s earthquakes included the strongest earthquake of 2017: a magnitude-8.1 event that struck offshore the state of Chiapas, followed by a magnitude-6.2 aftershock, which together killed at least 103 people. A magnitude-7.1 earthquake then struck central Mexico, killing at least 367 people and injuring thousands more. Total combined economic damage was expected to reach into the billions of U.S. dollars.
The Impact Forecasting report also listed other significant natural hazard events that occurred across the globe in September, including:
- Mexico also was hit by Tropical Storm Lidia, which killed 20 people when it tracked along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula
- Typhoon Doksuri left extensive damage across Vietnam, the Philippines, southern China and Laos, killing 40 people and damaging nearly 250,000 homes. Economic losses were listed at US$500 million.
- Tropical Storm Talim caused damage in Japan, damaging nearly 7,000 homes.
- A storm system prompted days of flash flooding in regions of Italy and Croatia, killing at least nine people. Economic damage was listed at US$250 million in Italy, and US$160 million in Croatia.
- Flood events occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where at least 105 people were killed; Uganda, where 23 people were killed or missing; and China, which sustained US$481 million in economic damage.
- Separate severe weather outbreaks in mid-September killed eight people in Romania, and damaged 2,400 homes and large swaths of agriculture in China.
- Windstorm Sebastian swept through the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany on Sept. 12-13, killing three people and causing extensive damage to agriculture in Germany.
- Major wildfires impacted the western United States, destroying dozens of homes and structures.
Source: Impact Forecasting/Aon Benfield