BOSTON, Feb. 4, 2011 – Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimates that insured losses to residential, commercial and industrial properties and their contents, and to automobiles from the winter storm that struck the U.S. on February 1–February 2, 2011, are between USD 790 million and USD 1.4 billion. The winter storm, one of the largest since the 1950s—affected nearly 100 million people across 30 states. The storm cut a swath across Texas to Canada, dropping more than a foot and half of snow in some regions and bringing high winds, sub-zero wind chill temperatures, freezing rain and ice.
“As is common of these storms that occur in the winter months, a large mass of very cold air followed in behind the storm’s front,” said Dr. Tim Doggett, principal scientist at AIR Worldwide. “The storm was able to form when cold Arctic air pushed south from Canada while moist air streamed north from the Gulf of the Mexico. Aside from the sheer size of the storm, the strength of the high pressure system behind this storm was also was also noteworthy. Pressure readings in Montana at the height of the blizzard were well above 1050 mb―the type of high pressure only seen once every 20 years or so in the U.S. This high pressure, coupled with the low pressure of the cyclone, led to the overall intensity of the storm.”
A number of seasonal snow accumulation records were broken. In the Northeast, officials reported a new record in Newark, N.J., which now has 62 inches of snow, compared with the seasonal average of 25 inches. In New York City, 56 inches of snow have fallen on Central Park, compared with an average of 22 inches.
States of emergency were declared in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma and the National Guard was called out to help rescue stranded motorists. Oklahoma has been declared a federal disaster area. Along with Illinois, these two states were the hardest hit.
With the accumulation of sleet, rain, and freezing rain, many roofs have been unable to bear the additional rain-saturated snow. In and around Boston, MA, there have been over 70 reports of roof collapses— mostly flat-roofed commercial structures—and more buildings have been identified as being at risk.
“While cleanup from the storm is underway, drifting is likely to continue to occur as a result of high winds, and there is still a potential for additional roof collapses,” added Dr. Doggett. “This is particularly true for light metal, long-span roofs (such as on hangars or warehouses). Engineered structures must conform to high load tolerances and damage to these structures is therefore expected to be minimal. But the roofs of marginally engineered structures can collapse under large accumulations of snow, particularly if their roofs have not been well-maintained.”
*Note to editors
AIR's insured loss estimates reflect:
• Insured physical damage to property (residential, commercial, industrial, auto), both structures and their contents;
• Additional living expenses (ALE) for residential claims;
• Business Interruption losses.
They do not reflect:
• Demand surge;
• Non-modeled losses, including loss adjustment expenses and coastal surge.
About AIR Worldwide
AIR Worldwide (AIR) is the scientific leader and most respected provider of risk modeling software and consulting services. AIR founded the catastrophe modeling industry in 1987 and today models the risk from natural catastrophes and terrorism in more than 50 countries. More than 400 insurance, reinsurance, financial, corporate, and government clients rely on AIR software and services for catastrophe risk management, insurance-linked securities, detailed site-specific wind and seismic engineering analyses, agricultural risk management, and property replacement-cost valuation. AIR is a member of the Verisk Insurance Solutions group at Verisk Analytics and is headquartered in Boston with additional offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. For more information, please visit www.air-worldwide.com