Hurricane is set to be one of the costliest US catastrophe events on record; despite building code ‘success stories’

In the days following Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida, a team of scientists and engineers from global reinsurance broker Gallagher Re travelled to the state during the first week of October 2022 to assess damage.

The findings from their assessment have now been brought together in a report.

Key takeaways from the damage survey include:

  1. Ian: Tied for fifth (5) strongest US mainland hurricane landfall on record with 150 mph (240 kph) winds
  2. Wind damage in Southwest Florida was extensive though newer construction showed limited impacts
  3. Newer metal and tile roofs, despite a higher purchase cost than asphalt shingles, were prevalent in SW FL
  4. Expansive storm surge damage (>15 feet) caused considerable impacts on the coast; tracked 0.4 miles inland
  5. Heavy losses to coastal commercial exposure, automobiles, boats, and other marine interests
  6. Inland flooding left considerable damage from DeSoto to Lake Counties in Florida
  7. Ian to be one of the costliest US catastrophe events on record; industry losses likely less than peak model range

According to Steve Bowen, chief science officer, Gallagher Re: “Hurricane Ian will be remembered as Southwest Florida’s ‘Andrew’. The widespread and substantial damage across the hardest-hit areas were marked by regionally historic storm surge, high winds, and inland flooding which will lead to high loss costs for the insurance industry and beyond.

”If not for numerous examples of building code success stories with newer constructed properties, the financial toll may have been even higher. While we cannot fully eliminate physical catastrophe risk, Ian proved that we can make meaningful steps to greatly reduce it.”

Prasad Gunturi, executive vice president, Catastrophe Analytics, Gallagher Re, said: Many homes in the impacted area are designed to withstand wind speeds of 150 to 160 mph, as per the Florida Building Code design standards.

”This exceeds Hurricane Ian’s wind speeds in the impacted area. So, if code design wind speed were lower, we might have seen much wider and more catastrophic damage to buildings, particularly structural and building envelope damage.

“Though the physical damage to most structures was not extensive, the cost of repairing them will likely be very expensive, due to building code requirements, local laws and the currently inflated cost of material and labour.”

As to the impact roof type had on subsequent damage witnessed in the post-hurricane survey, he added: “Despite being more than twice as expensive as asphalt shingles, metal and tile roofs are a popular choice in the impacted regions, comprising 50% to 60% of all roofs.

”Metal roofs performed far better than all others, particularly in the areas impacted by winds lower than 120 mph.”