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9 hurricanes and storms that cost insurers billions

Last Updated: Oct. 30, 2012

Devastating losses

As the U.S. East Coast struggles to recover after the devastation brought by superstorm Sandy, estimates of insured losses are rising, and could reach $20 billion.

Those estimates don't include damage from flooding, which some consumers can purchase separately through a U.S. federal government program.

Eqecat, a California company that estimates the cost of catastrophes, is predicting insured losses of $10 billion to $20 billion from the storm that roared ashore around 8 p.m. Monday.

That estimate is double the figures Eqecat suggested earlier this week, and is based on post-landfall observations. Factors influencing the revisions include the large electric and utility losses that Eqecat says will "trigger significantly more insured losses (business interruption) than were expected from a more typical Category 1 storm."

The company's initial estimate would have put Sandy among the top three storms in the Northeast, after Irene last year and Agnes in 1972, and among the top 10 or 15 of all time in the U.S., said Eqecat president Bill Keogh.

Here's a look at some of the North American storms that had high insured losses over the past three decades.

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

No North American storm in the past three decades has rivalled Hurricane Katrina for the devastation it caused.

After crossing the Florida Keys, the Category 3 storm struck the U.S. Gulf Coast, ravaging New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., in August 2005. Insurance losses of $46.6 billion (in 2011 dollars) were registered, says the Insurance Information Institute.

That insurance tally was about half of the total estimate of damage from the storm, which claimed at least 1,836 lives.

Hurricane Andrew, 1992

Katrina's insured loss was more than double that of Hurricane Andrew, the 1992 storm that became the costliest storm to hit the United States up to that time.

Andrew's insurance losses were estimated at $22.9 billion (in 2011 dollars) after the storm devastated southern Florida and south-central Louisiana.

Communities south of Miami were obliterated, and the experience with Andrew, a relatively small and fast-moving hurricane, changed how Americans forecast and responded to such storms, National Public Radio reported.

Hurricane Ike, 2008

Hurricane Ike roared into Texas off the Gulf of Mexico in September 2008.

Estimated insurances losses were $13 billion (in 2011 dollars), says the Insurance Information Institute.

Ike struck areas that were still trying to deal with the aftermath of Katrina. Four years later, thousands of Texans were still waiting for housing assistance for damages resulting from Ike and Hurricane Dolly, which had hit in July, the New York Times reported.

Hurricane Wilma, 2005

When Hurricane Wilma struck southern Florida less than two months after Katrina, it established a new record for the number of Category 5 storms in a single season &150; three.

Wilma's estimated insurance losses were $11.7 billion (in 2011 dollars), and at the time, the storm was responsible for the largest disruption of electrical service ever in Florida, according to the National Hurricane Centre.

Damage was extensive and ranged from destruction of mobile homes to crop devastation.

Hurricane Charley, 2004

Hurricane Charley hit the southwest coast of Florida as a Category 4 storm in October 2004.

Wind damage in Charlotte County was catastrophic, according to the National Hurricane Centre. After tracking north through Florida, Charley returned to sea, and then tracked back toward land, coming ashore again in South Carolina.

Insured losses for the storm were estimated at $8.8 billion (in 2011 dollars).

Hurricane Ivan, 2004

Damage from Hurricane Ivan, which came ashore off the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama in September 2004, was extensive along the coast and inland.

In addition to damaging or destroying beachfront homes, the storm severely damaged bridge and causeway structures. In Alabama, millions of acres of woodlands and forests were devastated, according to the National Hurricane Centre. Offshore oil operations were also disrupted.

Estimated insured losses for Ivan were set at $8.3 billion (in 2011 dollars).

Hurricane Hugo

Hurricane Hugo roared ashore in South Carolina in September 1989, and set a new standard for insured losses at the time. Storm surge and winds contributed to the extensive damage.

Estimated insured losses for the storm were $6.8 billion (in 2011 dollars).

Hurricane Rita

Hurricane Rita whipped up winds and hit Category 5 strength over the Gulf of Mexico before storming ashore as a Category 3 near the border between Louisiana and Texas.

Heavy storm surge caused significant damage in coastal Louisiana communities, according to the National Hurricane Centre. Devastation stretched from Texas to Alabama, and even reached to the Florida Keys.

The storm, which the centre says provoked one of the larges evacuations in U.S. history, had estimated insurance losses of $6.4 billion (in 2011 dollars).

Ice storm, 1998

In Canada, no storm has led to insurance losses on the scale of Katrina, but some extreme weather has had devastating impacts.

The 1998 ice storm that hit Ontario and Quebec had estimated insurance losses of $1.3 billion, according to a report by Risk Management Solutions reported in Claims Canada magazine.

[Interactive by Janet Davison & Ruby Buiza/CBC]

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