Idalia now a hurricane and could be a multi-billion dollar event for re/insurers

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Idalia has now reached hurricane strength and the latest update from the NHC says that the storm is expected to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane before making landfall on the Florida coast early Wednesday.

With sustained winds of 75 mph and stronger gusts, Hurricane Idalia is now a Category 1 storm as it continues to track over warm Gulf waters on its way to Florida’s coast.

The latest forecast advisory from the NHC suggests 120 mph sustained winds at landfall, with gusts of 150 mph, meaning Hurricane Idalia is currently expected to hit Florida as a Category 3 storm.

“On the forecast track, the center of Idalia is forecast to move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico today, reach the Gulf coast of Florida within the Hurricane Warning area on Wednesday, and move close to the Carolina coastline on Thursday,” says the latest NHC update.

The NHC warns that “rapid intensification is likely through landfall, and Idalia is forecast to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane before landfall on Wednesday.”

Currently, hurricane force winds extend outward up to 15 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 160 miles, according to the NHC.

For insurers and reinsurers, the landfall location will be critical in determining the level of losses from Idalia, as too will be the track of the storm as it heads inland. If it can get back over the Atlantic and sustain more intensity, the storm’s footprint could be wider on the southeastern coast.

While uncertainty remains as to exactly where the storm makes landfall and how strong it will be, although it’s looking more likely that it will strike Florida as a Cat 3 storm, analysts at re/insurance broker BMS have said that “a major hurricane into any section of Florida that extends into the Southeast states is likely a multi-billion dollar insurance industry event.”

You can see the latest location with wind speed and sea surface temperature forecast in Tomer Burg’s forecast map for Idalia below:

Hurricane Idalia forecast path, tracking map, intensity, Florida

The NHC update states that a storm surge warning is in effect for Englewood northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay, while a hurricane warning is currently in effect for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio, and the middle of Longboat Key northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay.

As noted by BMS in its analysis, the current focus point for the landfall, which is expected early Wednesday morning local time, is the big bend of the Florida coastline.

This is also where the NHC currently expects to see the most significant storm surge, with its forecast warning of up to 12ft in the Aucilla River to Chassahowitzka.

“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves,” says the NHC.

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