Hurricane Sandy Damage Estimates Up To $50 Billion

Current estimates of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, if proven true, would make it one of the worst storms to ever hit the United States:

Economic damages inflicted by Hurricane Sandy could reach $50 billion, according to new estimates that are more than double a previous forecast. Some economists warned on Thursday that the storm could shave a half percentage point off the nation’s economic growth in the current quarter.

Losses from the storm could total $30 billion to $50 billion, according to Eqecat, which tracks hurricanes and analyzes the damage they cause. On Monday, before the storm hit the East Coast, the firm estimated $10 billion to $20 billion in total economic damages.

The flooding of New York’s subways and roadway tunnels and the extensive loss of business as a result of utility failures across the region were behind the sharp increase in the estimate, the firm said.

“The geographic scope of the storm was unprecedented, and the impacts on individuals and on commerce are far larger,” said Tom Larsen, Eqecat’s senior vice president and product architect. “Lost power is going to contribute to higher insurance losses.”

Eqecat predicted that New York would bear 34 percent of the total economic losses, with New Jersey suffering 30 percent, Pennsylvania 20 percent and other states 16 percent. That includes all estimated losses, whether covered by insurance or not. The estimates and the share that will be covered by insurers are far from certain at this point, as government officials, property owners and insurance adjusters struggle to assess the destruction.

While the stock market, banks and other financial institutions regained some of their stride on Thursday, other sectors like retailing, transportation and leisure and hospitality face a much longer and more difficult recovery. With fuel in short supply in many areas and utilities warning that power may not be back for a week or more in some areas, businesses found themselves preparing for the equivalent of a long siege.

FedEx, for example, was trying to rent fuel tankers for its trucks in New York and New Jersey as commercial gas stations ran dry.

“We’re reaching out to everyone who has a gasoline tanker that we can move to these areas,” said Shea Leordeanu, a spokeswoman for the company. While FedEx had stocks of oil in advance of the storm for generators, it was not prepared for the gas shortages that caused long lines at stations on Wednesday and Thursday.

“There has not been an impact yet, but this is something we can see as an issue and we’re concerned,” she said.

As logistical problems mounted, and damage estimates surged, economists raised their estimates of the storm’s impact.

“I think the effect will be quite big,” said Julia Lynn Coronado, chief economist for North America at BNP Paribas. “In the fourth quarter, we’re probably looking at an impact of half a percentage point.”

She said some of those losses would be made up in the first quarter of 2013, as insurance reimbursements were distributed and homeowners and businesses rebuilt.

Hurricane Sandy will rank high among disasters in terms of economic impact but will not be at the top of the list, said Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics. He estimated that the losses would be less than half of those suffered because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and from Hurricane Katrina.

Moody’s Analytics also put the impact in the $50 billion range, with about $12 billion in losses falling in the New York City metropolitan area.

And that, of course, doesn’t take into account the human costs of all of this. So far, there are 90 confirmed deaths in the United States as a result of the storm.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Natural Disasters, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Rich, powerful, technologically advanced and nature can still mess us up. The pictures coming out of this just seem surreal at times.

  2. PJ says:

    Irene was estimated to cost $15.6 billion.
    Sandy is estimated to cost up to $50 billion.

    The really big concern here is if this will turn in to an annual event….

    Because there will be no reason to rebuild after every devastating hurricane if nothing is done to prevent the same kind of damage the next year. And good luck finding money for that in Congress as long as Republicans control the House…

    So, how long until the Big One hits California?

  3. @michael reynolds:

    And many of these costs are ones that insurance is never going to cover.

    Which brings up another issue. Given the number of high traffic websites who saw their sites go down because of server outages related to Sandy, I wonder if this will result in companies moving servers to some place like Kansas or Nebraska.

  4. Janis Gore says:

    It’s really frightening stuff. I’m horrified.

  5. anjin-san says:

    I keep waiting for bithead to show up and explain to us how federal distater relief is not in the constitution…

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Which brings up another issue. Given the number of high traffic websites who saw their sites go down because of server outages related to Sandy, I wonder if this will result in companies moving servers to some place like Kansas or Nebraska.

    Trading the very occasional hurricane for far more frequent tornadoes? Not a good deal, I’d say.

    Every area has its hazards.

    Hey, here’s a thought… how about those former missile silos in the northern midwest? Wouldn’t that make a decent server farm?

  7. John Peabody says:

    $50B damage from Sandy. A Facebook post from yesterday (reliable? probably not, but what if it’s true?) said that $90B has been given away to failed energy companies.

    Numbers are so fickle– I got taken in by the ‘horrifying’ statistic of the number of birds killed by wind generators each year (to the delight of the right) only to read that it was just 1% of the number of birds killed by cats each year.

    Damn numbers.

  8. Janis Gore says:

    Numbers be damned. These are people who are in new territory and they have just been terrorized.

    Where the hell is your heart, snotwad?

  9. Janis Gore says:

    Priorities, dammit!

  10. Davebo says:

    And many of these costs are ones that insurance is never going to cover.

    They’ll be covered for those who had taken the time to ensure they had proper coverage. How many millions does the government spend begging people to purchase government flood insurance?

    Oh wait, government flood insurance is a bugga boo to Doug. Or at least it was yesterday. Property owners should purchase private flood insurance just as soon as the market provides it. Which they obviously would if they didn’t have to compete with the guvment!

    Epic Fail.

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: There have been a lot of servers being set up in eastern Oregon. Few if any unusual storms – cheap electricity and cheap property. One such place is Burns, Oregon. A small cattle and logging town that has a lot of fiber optic cables running through town.