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Catastrophes may be the single greatest challenge impacting the insurance industry, affecting underwriters, adjusters, and policyholders alike. The shared risk that makes insurance such a viable industry can become financially devastating when thousands of claims pour in following an event like a hurricane, flood, or earthquake. No matter how many horrific events the industry has had to cope with — Atlantic storms such as Hurricane Andrew, floods in the Midwest, tornadoes in metropolitan areas — each catastrophe presents new challenges that call for an evolution of techniques, tactics, and technology.

Few events in American history captured the essence of a catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina. The storm slammed into New Orleans in the last week of August 2005, killing nearly 2,000 people (leaving another 700 missing), and causing more than $80 billion in damages. The immense financial toll and human suffering forever changed the way our society, government, and insurance industry approached forecasted events like hurricanes. It also changed the way people in the path of storms reacted, as evidenced by the mass exodus from Houston a month later prior to the arrival of Hurricane Rita.

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