Willis Re: Low Wind Damage from Sandy

Despite the high winds recorded from Superstorm Sandy, actual wind damage from the storm was “surprisingly minor,” a report from reinsurance broker Willis Re says.

Willis Re, a subsidiary of Willis Group Holdings, issued its Hurricane Damage Survey report last week saying the storm had estimated sustained winds of 80 mph when it made landfall near Atlantic City, N.J., at 8 p.m. on Oct. 29.

The storm “became complex when interacting with another weather system to the west, creating a large superstorm.”

During a four day period, representatives from Willis Re’s Catastrophe Management Services made assessments, and said a significant portion of the damage was the result of storm surge.

“In general, the direct damage to properties due to the wind component of the storm was none to minor in the survey areas,” the report says.

“Damage to buildings from tree fall was widely observed in all areas,” the report adds.

In a statement, Prasad Gunturi, senior vice president at Willis Re, says he “was surprised to see” the limited damage from wind. “However, moderate to minor wind damage was observed in a few highly localized areas. This pattern is a clear sign of the complex nature of Superstorm Sandy’s wind field.”

The team made its assessment visiting devastated areas along the New Jersey shore; Staten Island, Coney Island and Rockaway Beach, N.Y. Further assessments are planned for Hoboken, N.J., and Manhattan.

Another reinsurance broker, Guy Carpenter, a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, issued a report examining the structure of Sandy and touching on the issue of hurricane deductibles.

Several insurance departments, including New Jersey and New York, have told insurers not to impose hurricane deductibles because the storm was not classified as a hurricane when it made landfall.

According to the Guy Carpenter report, the storm’s core functioned like a hurricane, drawing energy from the Gulf Stream, but the outer portions mixed with arctic air from Canada, forming the deadly storm.

“Even without Sandy moving into the area, weather models showed that a typical Nor’easter world have formed,” says the report.

The combination of the two systems produced a number of records that includes:

  • Storm surge level at Battery Park on the south tip of Manhattan topped out nearly 4 feet higher than the previous record set by Hurricane Donna in 1960.
  • Central pressure of Sandy at landfall in Atlantic City, N.J. was the lowest pressure measured anywhere in the Eastern U.S. north of Cape Hatteras, N.C. The previous record was set by the “Long Island Express” hurricane of 1938. Sandy’s central pressure at the time of landfall was equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.
  • The storm was the second largest Atlantic tropical cyclone with tropical storm force winds extending out 580 miles from the center, about the size of Texas.

Touching on hurricane deductibles, Guy Carpenter notes that the National Weather Service says the storm “completed post-tropical transition as of 7 p.m. EDT, about an hour prior to landfall. However, the National Hurricane Center continued to issue advisors up to 11 p.m. despite the fact responsibility for issuing the warnings shifted to the National Weather Service when it was no longer officially a hurricane.

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