Hurricane Dorian forecast to hit Cat 4 prior to Florida landfall: NHC

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Hurricane Dorian continues to track towards Florida and is intensifying further, with the latest forecast suggesting it could reach Category 4 status, with sustained winds as high as 132 mph, and the hurricane is forecast to maintain similar levels of intensity right through to landfall.

Update: Hurricane Dorian is now almost a Category 3 storm and the forecast has worsened, while early industry loss estimates are emerging. Our latest here.

Hurricane Dorian is currently tracking clear of the Caribbean over warm waters with 85 mph sustained winds and stronger gusts, while the minimum central pressure of the storm is currently 986 mb.

The forecast path for hurricane Dorian takes it around the northern edge of the Bahamas, before making a turn to the left towards Florida.

Tropical storm or hurricane Dorian forecast path towards Florida

Intensification is forecast for the hurricane as it proceeds towards Florida and the majority of models suggest Dorian will reach Category 3, which means sustained winds of at least 111 mph up to 129 mph, with gusts likely to be significantly higher still.

The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast that it has just released suggests that hurricane Dorian will have winds of around 115 knots (132 mph) on September 2nd, which is the day landfall is currently expected and the storm will be at the Florida coastline (if the forecast pans out).

That would make hurricane Dorian a Category 4 hurricane and a significant threat.

Gusts at this stage are forecast at 140 knots, which is just over 161 mph.

Given where hurricane Dorian is currently forecast to make landfall and with such intensity, along the Florida east coast around the Melbourne, Palm Bay and Port St Lucie areas of the coast, the potential for a significant industry loss to insurance, reinsurance, insurance-linked securities (ILS) and catastrophe bond interests is clear.

NOAA warns, “The risk of dangerous storm surge and hurricane-force winds later this week and this weekend continues to increase in the central and northwestern Bahamas and along the Florida east coast, although it is too soon to determine where these hazards will occur.”

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center explained in an update that hurricane Dorian is likely to maintain its major status (so Category 3  or higher) right the way through to a Florida landfall.

“Dorian is likely to reach major hurricane strength in the next day or two and is forecast to maintain that status until it reaches land,” the NHC explains.

Forecasters at Accuweather have suggested that, if intensification conditions remain particularly conducive, a Category 4 hurricane Dorian landfall with windspeeds of 130 mph+ is not out of the question.

By September 3rd, hurricane Dorian is expected to still be a category 1 storm, with winds of around 75 mph and higher gusts.

This is where the scenario we mentioned earlier could come into play, of hurricane Dorian crossing the Florida peninsula, then entering the Gulf of Mexico where it could re-intensify over warm waters and then head towards a second landfall on the Gulf Coast.

Some forecasters continue to discuss this possibility and a number of forecast model runs show scenarios of a second landfall taking place from the Florida Panhandle west.

Hurricane Dorian has also been seen as likely to slow on approach to Florida, giving more time for intensification, but also signalling that hurricane force winds may persist over the state for longer than initially forecast.

The timing of a curve northwards will be crucial in whether Dorian makes it across the Florida peninsula, or curves northwards into Georgia. But at a slowed pace the torrential rainfall expected will cause flooding and damage under either scenario.

The forecast does remain full of uncertainty though and hurricane Dorian has still not managed to form a well-defined eye, hence the next day or so looks critical to fully understanding the potential intensity and location of Dorian’s landfall.

But as the hours pass Florida seems increasingly likely to take a hit, only precisely where and just how intense the hurricane will be at landfall remains a little less certain.

Which throws up conundrums for insurance, reinsurance and ILS market interests, as uncertainty does not allow for decisions on hedging to be easily taken.

Hence catastrophe bond investors are so far seen to be holding their nerve, we’re told, with the chances of any trading breaking out more likely to be tomorrow and over the weekend now (we’re sure desks will be available for those needing to trade with a hurricane in the water).

As we explained earlier, analysts at Credit Suisse have been talking scenarios that result in an insurance and reinsurance industry loss in the range of $10 billion to $30 billion.

It’s still very early to have any certainty in loss projections, but it seems increasingly possible that an impactful insurance and reinsurance industry loss event will occur if the forecasts prove even close to accurate.

Accuweather is sticking with its forecast for economic losses of up to $15 billion to occur, if Dorian maintains its Cat 3 status to landfall.

Category 3 and 4 hurricanes can cause a wide range of economic losses, from as little as the mid-single digit billions, right up to $10 billion, $20 billion, or even higher.

In the case of Dorian, where it could be a slow moving storm and has the potential to cross the peninsula, or move further south, it’s very hard to draw similarities with old hurricane scenarios at this stage.

Insured values in the area Dorian is currently tracking towards are not as high as some of those impacted by hurricane Irma, but a little deviation south towards more expensive areas of coastline, or north so Dorian tracks directly across Orlando, could result in higher costs.

Given the losses faced by reinsurance and ILS players over the last two years, even a $10 billion industry impact, so similar to 2018’s hurricane Michael, will likely provide further upward rate pressure at renewals to come.

Analysts at KBW continue to suggest that a major loss event will trouble reinsurance more than primary insurance players, as the direct writers are well reinsured.

These analysts say that on the basis of a Cat 3 landfall the industry loss should be sizeable anyway, due to hurricane wind damage, storm surge and rainfall.

The latest forecast shows hurricane Dorian reaching major status at some point on Friday, which means it has some intensifying to do over the coming hours and tomorrow may bring a better picture of its potential to reach Category 3, 4 or even higher.

We will update you further as new information comes to light.

Below is the latest intensity model output from TropicalTidbits.com

Tropical storm or hurricane Dorian intensity forecast

Below are the latest GFS ensemble hurricane forecast model tracks for Dorian, from TropicalTidbits.com.

Tropical storm or hurricane Dorian forecast model tracks

NOAA’s latest on Dorian is below:

At 1100 AM AST (1500 UTC), the center of Hurricane Dorian was located near latitude 21.4 North, longitude 67.2 West. Dorian is moving toward the northwest near 13 mph (20 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue through Friday. A west-northwestward motion is forecast to begin by Friday night and continue into the
weekend. On this track, Dorian should move over the Atlantic well east of the southeastern and central Bahamas today and on Friday, approach the northwestern Bahamas Saturday, and move near or over portions of the northwest Bahamas on Sunday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph (140 km/h) with higher gusts. Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane on Friday, and remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles (150 km).

The minimum central pressure based on data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is 986 mb (29.12 inches).

We will update you on hurricane Dorian as it proceeds and the threat it could pose to global insurance, reinsurance and ILS market interests.

You can always visit our 2019 Atlantic hurricane season page for the latest.

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