What would the top ten historical U.S. hurricanes and earthquakes cost today?

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AIR Worldwide has taken a look at the top ten U.S. hurricanes and earthquakes in history and worked out how much damage they would cause if they’d occurred today. This serves as a potent reminder to the reinsurance and risk financing communities of the power of natural catastrophes and the need to be prepared with adequate reserves and risk transfer in place. The industry has survived a recent event of magnitude in Hurricane Katrina, but imagine a number of events of this size in successive (or even the same) years and you can begin to see the predicament facing insurers and policymakers alike.

We’ve reproduced the events tables below but to read the full report including details of each event visit the AIR Worldwide website.

Estimated Insured Losses for the Top 10 Historical Hurricanes Based on Current Exposures
Date Event name 2009 Insured Loss*
September 18, 1926 Miami Hurricane $101 billion
August 24, 1992 Hurricane Andrew $57 billion
September 17, 1947 1947 Fort Lauderdale Hurricane $55 billion
September 17, 1928 Great Okeechobee Hurricane $51 billion
August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina $42 billion
September 9, 1900 Galveston Hurricane of 1900 $40 billion
September 21, 1938 The Great New England Hurricane $38 billion
September 9, 1965 Hurricane Betsy $36 billion
September 10, 1960 Hurricane Donna $31 billion
September 5, 1950 Hurricane Easy $21 billion
*Modeled loss to property, contents, and business interruption and additional living expenses for residential, mobile home, commercial, and auto exposures as of December 31, 2008. Losses include demand surge.

As you can see only Katrina and Andrew feature from recent years showing that although we’ve had some extremely large loss years from recent hurricane seasons, the storms themselves haven’t been of the magnitude of some experienced in history.

Estimated Insured Losses for the Top 10 Historical Earthquakes Based on Current Exposures
Date Event name Magnitude 2009 Insured Loss**
February 7, 1812 New Madrid, MO 7.7 $100 billion
April 18, 1906 San Francisco, CA 7.8 $96 billion
August 31, 1886 Charleston, SC 7.3 $37 billion
June 1, 1838 San Francisco, CA 7.4 $27 billion
January 17, 1994 Northridge, CA 6.7 $21 billion
October 21, 1868 Hayward, CA 7.0 $21 billion
January 9, 1857 Fort Tejon, CA 7.9 $8 billion
October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta, CA 6.3 $6 billion
March 10, 1933 Long Beach, CA 6.4 $5 billion
July 1, 1911 Calaveras, CA 6.4 $4 billion
**Modeled loss to property, contents, and business interruption and additional living expenses for residential, mobile home, commercial, and auto exposures as of December 31, 2008. Losses include demand surge and fire following earthquake. Policy conditions and earthquake insurance take up rates are based on estimates by state insurance departments and client claims data.

The concentration of events on California is really a good indicator of where the U.S. earthquake risk predominantly lies. The Northridge quake of 1994 is the only event in recent memory which features demonstrating that these events are not that frequent (at least not now, look at the number of major quakes experienced in the 1800’s).

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