96% uninsured in parts of Puerto Rico and USVI hit hardest by Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, is hurtling toward northern Puerto Rico after smashing into a string of small northern Caribbean islands, and the Virgin Islands earlier on Wednesday, which early reports suggest suffered heavy damage.
A Category 5 storm, it has the potential to cause catastrophic damage in the Florida Keys and southern Florida this weekend, and is being followed by a second storm that has formed behind it. The Florida Keys experienced extensive flooding from Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which was a Category 3 storm at landfall. The last Category 5 storm to make landfall in the Florida Keys was the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Right now Irma has its sight set on Puerto Rico.
Irma has no precedent. What did we know before it made landfall?
In Puerto Rico, the unfortunate reality is that over the past 5 years, the number of properties carrying flood insurance has decreased to less than a tenth of its prior steady levels, leaving 96% of high risk properties currently uninsured. It’s possible that the steep plunge in policy penetration is linked to the region’s economic downturn. At its peak, only 69% of high risk properties were uninsured.
Nearly 11% of the Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands population of over 3.8 million live in high risk flood zones. Over a 100,000 of them live within the storm surge extents of a Category 5 storm. In the past insurance claims have cost the National Flood Insurance Program over $213 million, nearly 30% of which have been paid out to those situated outside the areas designated by FEMA as high risk. Just like we saw in areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey, this region is severely underinsured within high risk zones, and has a history of flooding outside areas designated as high risk by FEMA.
The map images below provide some perspective on these potential implications in addition to population and properties vulnerable to Hurricane Irma. Note that the FEMA SFHAs are not the only areas where there have been insured losses in the past. Flood insurance policy penetration is very poor in many areas inland where heavy rains and associated flooding and flash flooding from Irma are projected to incur heavy losses to property owners.
Past Insured Losses within and outside FEMA’s SFHA in San Juan, PR
Population in FEMA’s Special Flood Hazard Area — Puerto Rico
% Uninsured Properties in High Risk Flood Zones — Puerto Rico
Past Insured Losses Within FEMA’s SFHA — Puerto Rico
Past Insured Losses Outside FEMA’s SFHA — Puerto Rico
Past Insured Losses within and outside FEMA’s SFHA — Puerto Rico
Past Insured Losses within and outside FEMA’s SFHA — St. Croix, USVI
Past Insured Losses within and outside FEMA’s SFHA — St. Thomas & St. John, USVI
% Uninsured Properties in High Risk Flood Zones — St. Croix, USVI
% Uninsured Properties in High Risk Flood Zones— St. Thomas & St. John, USVI
Syndeste is an Insurance Technology startup specializing in delivering high resolution data and analytics on natural hazard risks to enterprises. Syndeste has evaluated historic trends in areas affected by Irma, and the level of insurance carried by property owners as focus shifts into recovery and rebuilding. Syndeste will continue to monitor Irma and its impacts and deliver meaningful insights to help individuals and enterprises build resilience after this unprecedented event.