August 31, 2010

Originally expected to peak as a category 3 storm, Hurricane Earl has reached category 4. AccuWeather's Meghan Evans speculated early this morning that Earl might become the first category 5 storm since 2007 but now says that's unlikely.

Evans' colleague Alex Sosnowski had this to say about Earl's likely progress:

One thing is for sure, Earl's forward speed will increase upon nearing waters of North Carolina, as steering winds in northern latitudes begin to take over, distorting the shape of the storm.

Eventually, these shearing winds and colder waters will cause Earl to weaken terminally, but not before making a very close brush with Cape Cod and the islands, as well as a possible direct hit on Nova Scotia and Newfoundland with potentially damaging and life-threatening consequences.

The Street's Maria Woehr, formerly of I&T reports that among insurance carriers Chubb faces the greatest exposure to loss if Earl strikes the northeast Atlantic coast. Woehr cites AIR Worldwide's Kevin Long as predicting up to $33 billion in losses in a worst-case scenario. Woehr writes:

Michael Nannizzi, executive director of equity research at Oppenheimer, says that Chubb(CB) has the greatest exposure to losses if the hurricane hits the east coast directly. Two other companies that face exposures to the hurricane are Allstate (ALL), and Travelers(TRV).

"If you look at all of the East Coast from the Carolinas northward to Maine, Chubb owns about 9% of the market and Travelers and Allstate own 6% of the market share," Nannizzi added.

"We continue to like Chubb because of this hurricane. What Chubb is really good at is handling claims and most people that file claims will stick with Chubb for life. Chubb is still at the top of its game. This is an opportunity for them to differentiate themselves," Nannizzi said.

The NOAA National Hurricane Center shows a probable track of Earl impacting North Carolina coast by Friday Morning and reports that the storm is likely to strike North Carolina's Outer Banks as a major hurricane with sustain winds in excess of 111 mph. The NOAA graphic shows the storm potentially reaching the northern end of the Maritime Provinces by the morning of Sunday, Sept. 5. FEMA officials have said that evacuations may be necessary, according to a report at Yahoo News.

A Bloomberg story cites a National Hurricane Center spokesman as saying that Earl poses a "serious threat" for the Labor Day weekend. The article continues:

"Residents and tourists anywhere from North Carolina up to New England should keep track of this storm," Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the center, said today in a telephone interview from Miami. "It's too early to tell what kind of impact will occur."

The chances are 10 percent that the U.S. will experience hurricane-force winds of at least 74 mph in the next three days, according to Tropical Storm Risk, a London-based venture that grew out of a U.K. government-supported tsunami initiative.

TSR puts the possibility of tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph at 60 percent in the same time period. Both Cape Hatteras, in North Carolina, and Chatham, Massachusetts, have a 10 percent risk of hurricane-force winds.

Providence, Rhode Island, and Montauk, New York, have a 35 percent chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds within the next four days, TSR said in a statement today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek ...