Published 3:35 pm Thursday, August 21, 2008
Hurricane prep is key during this time of year
By Lowell McGill
With the hurricane season upon us several weather factors must be taken in consideration, especially for the mid Gulf Coast area where we live.
The Bermuda High is one of these conditions which may present a problem for us and it could cause our property insurance premiums to soar if this high steers a storm our way.
There are two other weather phenomenons, El Nino and La Nina, which also come into play during the storm season. However, because of their complex nature, I won’t go into this now. It has to do with the heating and/or cooling of temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.
I suppose my being involved in flood insurance adjusting for 30 years obsesses my interest in weather patterns.
As I write my column today, August 18, I use a favorite internet source that provides some interesting information regarding the remaining weeks of the current hurricane system.
First, let me explain the Bermuda High. It is described by Wikipedia as “a large subtropical semi-permanent center of high atmospheric pressure found near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Simply stated, when this high is most well developed, a ridge of high pressure extends westward towards the United States and tends to steer storms westward.
Now, Dr. Jeff Masters, who co- founded the web Site “Weather Underground” has predicted this high “will replace a trough of low pressure over the U.S. East Coast over the next two weeks and extend far to the west.” Masters further states, “this means fewer hurricanes will be recurving and the threat to the U.S. Gulf Coast will increase. Conversely, the threat to the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda will diminish,” he states.
Again, in simple terms, we could be in the path of hurricanes that may form any time before the end of the 2008 hurricane season.
At the time of this writing the National Hurricane center is watching Faye as she tries to make up her mind where she is heading. There is a question about its path and if the Bermuda High will come into play. Dr. Masters believes it will be a few more days before the BH will extend far enough westward to be a factor in this storm. Of course, two days from now when this column is published, this storm could be our major news topic.
Incidentally, on Aug. 7 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated its web site hurricane forecast to include fourteen to eighteen named storms this season. The NOAA says seven to ten are expected to become hurricanes. They believe three to six will be Category Three storms on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. These would be storms with winds similar to Ivan, Frederic and Hugo.
If we should feel the impact of another hurricane here, how would it affect our insurance premiums?
Well, as you probably know many properties situated south of Interstate 10 have already felt the increase. And, some properties have been cancelled leaving some residents and businesses searching for other insurance carriers.
Internet sources report that we, on the north side if I-10 could be categorized as a “high prone strike area” if we receive another storm like Ivan. Thus, we could be identified with those same properties south of 1-10. As you know our area received representative substantial damage from Ivan four years ago. And, Katrina brought some damage here in 2005.
In the Wednesday July 23 edition of the “Mobile Register,” a story was carried indicating that a major Homeowner Insurance Company was raising rates by 12 percent to 18 percent in Mobile and Baldwin Counties. Wind coverage for 700 policy holders will also be totally dropped, the story related.
The story further stated the carrier “will mandate a hurricane deductible equal to five percent of the value of a policy for renewing Mobile and Baldwin customers.” This means those policy owners absorb, for example, the first $5,000 loss on a $100,000 loss. In some policies other deductibles must also be considered.
The Alabama State Insurance Department stated this same carrier will decrease premiums by an average of 0.9 percent across most areas in the state.
Other leading insurance companies had earlier reported premium rate increases south of I-10.
If we were hit by another storm, insurance companies would regard us as a “storm prone money losing area.” Thus, they probably would not want to offer us the same rates if we suffered substantial damage.
Here is one way to save on your personal property premiums. Make sure that your automobile and home or business are carried with the same company. You will get a good discount when you do this. Also, be sure to ask your agent, or your internet policy carrier, who does the adjusting in case of a loss. Some company use staff adjusters and some use independent adjusting firms. Staff adjusters are those who are employed by the carrier and independent adjusters are those who are contracted to handle losses. We have good agents here and they will answer all your questions. They have been trained to handle your insurance requirements.
Again, keep your eyes peeled on news about the Bermuda High. This will be a vital factor determining if we, indeed, may take a “hit” during the next several weeks of the current hurricane season.
In closing, how many of you remember Hurricane Elena in 1985?
This was the storm that kept playing tricks on us by going back and forth across the Gulf waters to our southeast and southwest. Steering currents and the Bermuda High were evident in that storm as it continued to loop with erratic “back and forth sweeps.”
This storm created evacuation problems. Forecasting was unclear and residents from St. George Island to Biloxi found themselves in a state of confusion. For 72 hours the storm rambled until it finally made land fall near Biloxi.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at email@example.com