Overhyped? Irene Could Rank As One Of The Ten Most Expensive Hurricanes Ever

As flood waters have overwhelmed New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and, to a lesser extent, Upstate New York, the debate over whether the media “overhyped” Hurricane Irene this past weekend has faded fast. Now, there’s news that Irene could end up being one of the most expensive hurricanes to strike the United States since records were kept:

Hurricane Irene will most likely prove to be one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in the nation’s history, and analysts said that much of the damage might not be covered by insurance because it was caused not by winds but by flooding, which is excluded from many standard policies.

Industry estimates put the cost of the storm at $7 billion to $10 billion, largely because the hurricane pummeled an unusually wide area of the East Coast. Beyond deadly flooding that caused havoc in upstate New York and Vermont, the hurricane flooded cotton and tobacco crops in North Carolina, temporarily halted shellfish harvesting in Chesapeake Bay, sapped power and kept commuters from their jobs in the New York metropolitan area and pushed tourists off Atlantic beaches in the peak of summer.

While insurers have typically covered about half of the total losses in past storms, they might end up covering less than 40 percent of the costs associated with Hurricane Irene, according to an analysis by the Kinetic Analysis Corporation. That is partly because so much damage was caused by flooding, and it is unclear how many damaged homes have flood insurance, and partly because deductibles have risen steeply in coastal areas in recent years, requiring some homeowners to cover $4,000 worth of damages or more before insurers pick up the loss.

This could make it harder for many stricken homeowners to rebuild, and could dampen any short-term boost to the construction industry that typically accompanies major storms, Jan Vermeiren, the chief executive of Kinetic Analysis, said in an interview.

“Especially now that the economy is tight, and people don’t have money sitting around, local governments are broke, and maybe people can’t even get loans from the banks,” Mr. Vermeiren said.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut sought expedited disaster declarations from the federal government on Tuesday, which would pave the way for more federal aid. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York wrote President Obama that he had seen “hundreds of private homes either destroyed or with major damage and an enormous amount of public infrastructure damage.” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wrote the president that “immediate federal assistance is needed now to give New Jersey’s residents a helping hand at an emotionally and financially devastating time.”

Flooding and widespread power failures tied to the storm continued to affect tens of thousands of people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Tuesday. And rivers and inland streams were still rising in New Jersey and Connecticut, forcing the evacuation of thousands of homeowners.

“I think this is going to end up being a bigger event than people think it is,” Connecticut’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy, said at a news conference. He added: “All of this is massive in scope. What the final dollar amount is, I don’t know.”

So, the final answer to the question I asked on Monday is a clear, definitive no.

Photo of downtown Bound Brook, New Jersey via NJ.com

FILED UNDER: Natural Disasters, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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.

Comments

  1. Frank says:

    And if it was florida, no one would still be talking about it. Cue another expensive storm, charlie. This one hit florida and was forgotten quickly. I can go through a list of others that caused extensive damage that weren’t hyped before or after down here. I think some northerners don’t realize what asses they come off as they second they start talking about spinning storms. We’re sorry for you guys, storms suck… But come on now, my entire house flood just a few years ago during a storm, and there is little national attention paid to large scale property destruction here… Bottom line, you’re not special.

  2. CB says:

    i dont really think anyone believed it was overhyped, especially if they have any connection to the tri-state area. the overhyped meme was just contrarians being contrarian.

  3. CB says:

    @Frank:

    i will also remember to be a condescending jackass when two inches of snow shuts you guys down for a week.

  4. Frank says:

    CB:

    Great. And I’ll wait for florida to get two inches of snow.

    [checks watch]

    You can rest assured we wouldn’t be making a big deal of florida snow because it was so devastating and we didn’t know how to drive in it… But because well… It would be snow in florida!

  5. dave says:

    @Frank: Northern dollars (where the wealth of this country lies) are what were used to rebuild your hosue, your ungrateful Florida schmuck.

    Oh and the next time SNOW or frost falls on Florida, I don’t want to hear you whine about. it on the national news (as you typically do). You get an inch of snow or 30 degree weather (oh no!) and suddenly you are afraisd to walk outside the house.

    Frank: You’re a damn southern prick.

  6. matt says:

    @Frank: I’ve lived in FLorida. Anytime the tiniest amount of frost built up people would freak out…

  7. David says:

    “Most expensive” has always struck me as a really inaccurate way to measure storms. Size, duration, loss of life, wind speed, pressure – those can all be compared side-by-side. But I would expect a hurricane hitting Manhattan to “cost more” than one hitting lower Alabama.

    And yes it was overhyped – but all hurricanes are. The services and scientists responsible for warning us about these storms have every reason to overstate their quantity, size and impact every hurricane season. Better to have an over-anxious but ultimately safe populace than one sitting calmly in their homes while a Cat 3 or 4 comes barreling into town.

  8. CB says:

    anectdotally, i recall atlanta absolutely freaking out and shutting down for multiple days over an inch of snow last winter, for one.

    my only point is that the region matters. a hurricane in florida is different from a hurricane in NYC, and yeah, a foot of snow in florida doesnt equal a foot of snow here in jersey. i would think that would bolster my overall point that there is some jackassery afoot when you essentially tell people, who have no prior experience with devastation like this, to suck it up.

  9. Frank says:

    In no particular order:

    Northern dollars (where the wealth of this country lies) are what were used to rebuild your hosue, your ungrateful Florida schmuck.

    So, if the North sends money we can’t criticize that the majority of the other 10 most expensive storms in history faded out of the national discourse quickly, but the ones that hit the North nearly every year are going to be talked about for God knows how long?

    Even if I granted that Northern dollars paid for my clean-up (they didn’t, I did out of my own pocket due to the wonder of the insurance industry), obviously money has nothing to do with the criticism offered here.

    Oh and the next time SNOW or frost falls on Florida, I don’t want to hear you whine about. it on the national news (as you typically do). You get an inch of snow or 30 degree weather (oh no!) and suddenly you are afraisd to walk outside the house.

    You may want to check how often snow falls in Florida. if you recall, I said nothing about Northerners not being able to complain– I said something about this post considering Irene some sort of unique occurrence that warrants national attention, because it could, could have been expensive.

    Frank: You’re a damn southern prick.

    Damn straight.

    i would think that would bolster my overall point that there is some jackassery afoot when you essentially tell people, who have no prior experience with devastation like this to suck it up.

    At no point did I say suck it up. I sympathized that losing property and getting hit by a storm sucks. That this post is about the fact that this storm could, could have been rather expensive ignores the fact that most of the expensive storms that seriously messed up parts of Florida were of little to no national interest. If Doug had said something in regard that we should have hyped up those storms a bit more and pay more national attention to them as well, I would have have a bit more sympathy.

    “Most expensive” has always struck me as a really inaccurate way to measure storms. Size, duration, loss of life, wind speed, pressure – those can all be compared side-by-side.

    This. Thank you David.

  10. Ben Wolf says:

    Not even halfway through hurricane season and this is already the most expensive year for weather-related damage in U.S. history.

  11. anjin-san says:

    It won’t cost Rush a dime…