Over the past year, flood and flood insurance has really become more apparent in the media and trade publications. Normally only catastrophic events (i.e. hurricanes) capture so much attention, but the combination of some massive floods and the continued progress of private flood legislation has started conversations that are overdue. Both the nature of these storms and floods, and their impact on property owners are getting close attention, and that is welcome because it is changing the way people think about underwriting flood insurance.
©2016 Roger Pottorff. All Rights Reserved.
In the past two weeks, there have been two articles published that illustrate such changes of perception.
The first is from Jeri Xu of Swiss Re, and she offers a very useful way to think of the rain events that have caused some of the most serious recent floods (i.e. 2016 Texas, West Virginia, Maryland, and Louisiana). She offers an angle on these events that is potentially transformative for evaluating flood risk: since flood-causing storms are localized at the county-level (roughly speaking), and there are about 3,000 counties in the country, it is not unreasonable to expect three 0.1% annual probability floods in any given year. In other words, we should expect three thousand-year-floods annually. With this insight, Ms. Xu has transformed the extremely rare to the commonplace, and reconciled the headlines with the stats.
The second is from David Bull, North America Editor of The Insurance Insider, specifically about the recent Louisiana floods. He has tracked down the 0.1% annual probability of the rain that caused these floods, ensuring his article is apples to the Swiss Re article’s apples. Mr. Bull writes about the profound protection gap in Baton Rouge and Lafayette for flood, quoting all the ugly stats about how most of the property that has been flooded is uncovered for it: “Across the Baton Rouge area, no more than 15 percent of homes have flood insurance, while Lafayette, also hard-hit, has a take-up rate of 14 percent.” The reason for this sorry penetration of flood insurance is the same as always: “many of the areas flooded were outside the 100-year floodplain and not considered at high risk.” Mr. Bull has shown the obvious need for a new form of flood insurance.