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Home insurance: Storm surges pose huge risk to major U.S. cities

More than 1.2 million homes in 10 major population centers along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at risk of sustaining more than $300 billion worth of damage from tropical storm surges, according to a new report.

home insurance storm surge

The report pinpoints Long Island, N.Y., as the area that faces the highest price tag for damage to homes from a worst-case storm surge: $99 billion. It's followed by Miami-Palm Beach, at $44.9 billion. The report was produced by CoreLogic Inc., a provider of property data and other information.

The top 10 metro areas at risk of damage from storm surges were identified by hurricane probability, storm surge vulnerability and residential density.

Since standard home insurance policies exclude flood losses from either saltwater or freshwater, homeowners who are not in federally designated flood zones but are in high-risk storm surge zones should consider buying coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program, the report says.

Storm surge is triggered primarily by high winds and low pressure associated with hurricanes, causing water to amass inside a storm as it moves across the ocean and release as a powerful rush over land when the storm moves ashore. The sheer force of a storm surge produces damage, as do trees, cars, boats, pieces of buildings and other debris carried by the waves of water.

Much of the $85.6 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 resulted from storm surge, not from high winds or rain.

"Beginning with Hurricane Katrina and continuing through the recent Japanese tsunamis, public awareness has been sharply focused on the destructive impact of ocean waves driven by natural events," according to the 2011 CoreLogic Storm Surge Report.

The projected dollar amounts for storm surge damage are based on a Category 5 hurricane -- the most powerful type of tropical storm. For Long Island, the dollar figure is tied to a Category 4 hurricane, as a Category 5 storm would be highly unlikely along that part of the Atlantic Coast.

“The important thing to remember is that though individual homeowners can greatly reduce hurricane wind damage with improvements to buildings and structural design, they are often powerless to mitigate the impact of storm surge and resulting saltwater flooding,” Howard Botts, an executive vice president at CoreLogic, says in a statement.

“It’s a common misconception for homeowners to think that if they live outside of a FEMA flood zone, they are safe from hurricane-driven storm surge flooding, when in reality their property is vulnerable to the most destructive natural flooding catastrophes that can occur alongside a tropical storm.”

</p> <h2>Top 10 urban areas at risk of home damage from storm surges</h2> <p> Long Island, N.Y. -- $99 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 196,740 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Miami-Palm Beach -- $44.9 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 119,778 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Virginia Beach, Va. -- $44.6 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 253,214 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> New Orleans -- $39 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 120,181 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Tampa, Fla. -- $27 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 177,453 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Houston -- $20 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 140,896 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Jacksonville, Fla. -- $19.6 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 112,165 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Charleston, S.C. -- $17.7 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 34,126 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Corpus Christi, Texas -- $4.7 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 35,153 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Mobile, Ala. -- $3 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 22,178 (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Total for top 10 urban areas: $319.5 billion (value of homes at risk of storm surge damage); 1,221,884, (number of homes exposed to flood or surge inundation) </p> <p> Source: CoreLogic</p> <p>

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