Hurricane claims rolling into state-backed insurer

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Because there was no direct hit by Matthew to Florida, overall losses are being called ‘manageable’

BY JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – Citizens Pro-perty Insurance policyholders have filed more than 1,100 claims regarding Hurricane Matthew as of Monday afternoon and more claims are expected, according to the state-backed insurer.

Downed power lines and trees have created major road blockages and hazards in Daytona Beach like this scene on Keech Street.(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)
Downed power lines and trees have created major road blockages and hazards in Daytona Beach like this scene on Keech Street.
(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

Meanwhile, an industry analysis projects overall losses from the storm being “manageable.”

Of the Citizens’ claims, 963 came from property owners in Volusia, Brevard, Flagler, St. Johns and Duval counties, the regions hardest hit by the storm that battered Florida’s coastline late last week.

No estimates of damages caused by Matthew were immediately available, Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said Monday.

Billions in losses
Hurricane Hermine, which hit northern Florida in early September, resulted in 827 claims, totaling $284,000 in damages, filed by Citizens policyholders in the first three weeks after the storm.

Because the more powerful and deadly Matthew didn’t make a direct hit on the Sunshine State last week, the overall impact on the insurance industry won’t be as bad as it could have been.

Data analysis firm CoreLogic is projecting the storm, which hammered Georgia and South Carolina as well as Florida, will result in $4 billion to $6 billion in insured-property loss.

CoreLogic’s projection –  that about 1.5 billion residential and commercial properties are expected to have been impacted by Matthew – is based on insurance claims related to high winds and flooding, not on overall economic impacts.

Mostly wind damage
Ninety percent of the anticipated Matthew claims are expected to be related to wind damage, and 10 percent from storm surge.

Workers from JAFLO Tree Service in West Virginia cut up a massive pine tree that fell on high-voltage power lines during Hurricane Matthew, along Beville Road on Oct. 10 in Daytona Beach.(JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS)
Workers from JAFLO Tree Service in West Virginia cut up a massive pine tree that fell on high-voltage power lines during Hurricane Matthew, along Beville Road on Oct. 10 in Daytona Beach.
(JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS)

In comparison, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused between $35 billion and $40 billion in damages along the Gulf Coast, while Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Northeast in 2012, resulted in $15 billion to $20 billion in property damages.

The recent projections are a vast improvement over the pre-storm outlook, when the major hurricane that caused hundreds of deaths in Haiti had prospects of making a direct landfall on the Atlantic Coast.

Better than expected
Bloomberg News had projected that damages could reach $25 billion to $35 billion, while Moody’s Analytics forecast losses near $70 billion, including economic impacts.

But by last Friday, as Matthew churned off northeast Florida’s coastline, the outlook was already improving.

Christopher A. Grimes, director of Chicago-based Fitch Ratings, projected the insurance losses from Matthew will be manageable.

“Hurricane Matthew will pressure the earnings of some insurance underwriters in Florida and other southeast states but is not expected to present a major capital challenge,” Grimes said in a press release Friday.

On Monday, Moody’s issued a statement saying the long-term impacts of the storm on Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, are expected to be “minimal.”

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