What if the Real 'Big One' Hits the Northeast?

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We've been quite lucky that no major hurricanes have hit the United States over the past seven years.

In the wake of the massive flood damage caused by the Category 1 Hurricane Sandy in late October and an excellent concert last Wednesday at Madison Square Garden to raise funds for victims' relief, that may seem like a strange statement, but "none of the twenty major hurricanes forming in the Atlantic basin in the past six years have impacted the U.S. coastline at major hurricane strength," according to the Tropical Meteorology Project.

A major hurricane is a storm of Category 3, 4 or 5, "which reaches a sustained low-level wind of at least 111 mph (96 knots or 50 ms-1) at some point in its lifetime," according to the Tropical Meteorology Project, which is led by William Gray, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at Colorado State University.

The Odds of a Big One


While the Project's quantitative hurricane forecast for 2013 will not be released until April 10, the group's Dec. 7 Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2013 includes a "qualitative discussion" on various factors underlining a very busy period for hurricane activity, that is likely to continue.

According to the Dec. 7 report, the past seven years have been quite unusual, with no major hurricanes hitting the mainland, following a very difficult 2004 and 2005, "when seven of 13 major hurricanes made U.S. landfall," including the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in late August 2005. The Tropical Meteorology Project said that "The last 100-year climatology indicates that approximately 30% of all major hurricanes that form in the Atlantic basin make U.S. landfall as major hurricanes."

While the Dec. 7 report didn't contain specific number predictions, it did include probabilities for tropical storm and hurricane hits for 2013. The probability of a "named storm" hitting the East Coast, including Florida, is 81%, while the probability of Category 1 or 2 hurricane hitting is 44%, with a 31% probability of a major hurricane of Category 3, 4 or 5 making landfall, during 2013.

Of course, Florida factors heavily in the above figure, with a 51% probability of a hurricane making landfall and a 21% probability of a major hurricane hitting during 2013.

Breaking its probabilities down by state, the Tropical Meteorology Project said that the probability of a hurricane making landfall in New York during 2013 was 8%, with a 3% probability that a major hurricane would hit. For New Jersey, the probability of a hurricane hitting land is 1%, with a probability of less than 1% for a major hurricane. For Connecticut, the probability of a hurricane strike is 7%, with a 2% probability for a major hurricane hitting land.

Big Insurers Have Strong Reserves


It's too early to calculate the total amount of insured losses for U.S. property and casualty (P&C) insurance carriers this year, as claims for damage caused by Sandy are still being processed.