All posts tagged 'National Weather Service'

A Tale of Two Deductibles: Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy is Not a Hurricane

November 3, 2012 06:26
by J. Wylie Donald
You've just weathered a post-tropical cyclone.  Your garage is flattened.  Do you have a hurricane deductible?  Or will your regular deductible apply?  The answer can be worth thousands of dollars as a hurricane deductible is not a fixed amount but is calculated based on a percentage of your home’s insured value.  These questions loom large as the process of recovery from what-was-at-one-time-known-as Hurricane-Sandy gathers steam and homeowners get the lights back on.  The news services and trade press have been all over this topic in the last few days with the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut (as well as their Departments of Insurance) weighing in and advising that hurricane deductibles cannot be applied because the storm that started in the south as a hurricane, was no longer a hurricane when it arrived in their respective states. Would that it were so easy.  All you need to determine the meaning of your policy is the ipse dixit of the governor.  Not quite. What actually was going on was this:  the governor was getting advice from his department of insurance, which in turn had reviewed the weather reports and the hurricane deductible form or regulation that had been approved months or years ago.  New Jersey for example issued an executive order, which referenced the applicable regulation.  N.J.A.C. 11:2-42.7 provides:  "This deductible applies, as described below, in the event of direct physical loss to property covered under this policy, caused directly or indirectly in the event of a hurricane named by the National Weather Service or its successor from which sustained hurricane force winds of 74 miles per hour or greater have been measured in New Jersey by the National Weather Service (regardless of whether the sustained hurricane-force winds reach the risk insured under the policy) and shall replace any other applicable deductible in that event.” New York hasn’t codified its hurricane deductible rule and the policy language very much matters.  In the case of one insurer in New York, for example, for a hurricane deductible to apply, a number of things are necessary.  One needs A windstorm of tropical origin; Winds of 74 miles per hour or greater;Those winds must by confirmed by the National Weather Service at a landfall in specified counties.  Because Sandy could not muster 74 mile per hour winds as it entered New York, the hurricane deductible could not be applied.  But suppose the winds had reached 74 mph, what then?  It gets complex fast.  First, according to NASA Sandy packed tropical storm force winds across almost 1000 miles.  The hurricane deductible under this insurer’s policy applies to any insured property “regardless of [its] specific location.”  So, all that is needed is a trace of a hurricane in Montauk at the tip of Long Island and the good citizens of Albany could be facing hurricane deductibles for whatever windstorm loss occurs as the tropical storm ultimately demises, regardless of how violent the winds were (or weren’t).  Second, the deductible applies 12 hours before the hurricane gets there and “ends 12 hours after a hurricane …” – whatever that means. Third, maybe you don’t care about the hurricane deductible because your policy is only triggered by a Category 2 storm or requires that the hurricane force winds be within your county.  Fourth, or maybe you are at the opposite end of the spectrum and your policy applies the deductible if hurricane force winds are in any county in New York, not just coastal counties, or worse, if hurricane force winds are in a contiguous state. The point is that the terms of your policy matter and they may vary widely.  The Department of Financial Services in New York put together a table outlining all the permutations of coverage. We assume that one is likely to have to pay for the differences where more risk is shifted to the insurer. And these wide differences can get even wider as one changes states.  Maryland, for example, requires by statute that the hurricane deductible may only apply “beginning at the time the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service issues a hurricane warning for any part of the State where the insured's home is located and ending 24 hours following the termination of the last hurricane warning issued for any part of the State in which the insured's home is located.”  Md. Insurance Code § 19-209(b).   In plainer English, the hurricane warning has to be for the county where your home is, not just any place in Maryland.  (With regard to Sandy, the Maryland Insurance Administration echoed what the governors were doing.  Bulletin 12-24 advised that hurricane deductibles would not apply because "The National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service did not issue a hurricane warning for the State of Maryland.")  Florida, as might be expected, has its own rules.  A hurricane deductible can only apply per calendar year, and can be a fixed amount, or 2%, 5% or 10% of the home’s value.  The hurricane period is extended out to 72 hours after the last hurricane warning.   Hurricane deductibles are ubiquitous but they are not all the same.  Even where the language is mandated by state law, insurers can always provide more coverage than is required.  You should check that, but also check the premium. Florida’s hurricane deductible popped up after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  Its calendar year requirement was enacted after Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne wreaked their havoc in 2005.  Connecticut revised its hurricane deductible law following Hurricane Irene.  The meteorologists tells us Sandy was a unique megastorm: a tropical storm, combined with a winter storm, combined with frigid Canadian air, combined with a high tide.  Unique or no, we expect revisions to state hurricane deductible laws as a result. 

Insurance | Legislation | Regulation | Weather

National Weather Service 30-Year Averages Confirm the Climate is Getting Hotter in the U.S.

August 4, 2011 19:36
by J. Wylie Donald
Half a degree doesn't sound like much. And it isn't, if you are talking about a baccalaureate. But in a world of climate change, a half a degree increase in Baltimore's average temperature combined with average temperature increases in all the lower 48 states is confirmation of what the scientists are telling us:  the planet is warming.  Thus, the National Weather Service's release on Monday of revised 30-year average temperatures gives some satisfaction, or at least Schadenfreude, to those trying to lead (or push) their organizations into proactively managing climate change. Or does it?  Here is how this news was reported in Tampa, Florida  "Some of the changes emerge from tossing out statistical peaks and valleys from the 1970s, the weather service says. A shift in instrument locations could explain more change. And the continued development around Tampa International Airport and Tampa in general could account for some of the warmer nights that helped push average temperatures higher for April through August. A slight shift in equipment location at Tampa International Airport could also influence the low morning readings, the weather service says. Or, the overall reason also could be changes in global climate, but that’s impossible to determine from readings at one location, the weather service says." So if this is all statistics, what is one to do?  You could instead get your weather news from Montgomery, Alabama, which reported on the same news: Updated theories of global warming and climate change predict a pattern of increasing temperatures. The theories are based on an increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmos­phere leading to high tempera­tures. The shift in temperatures is more likely associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, said Dr. Roy Spencer, a princi­pal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Spencer also has served as a senior scientist for climate studies at NASA's Mar­shall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. So which is it?  Statistics, decadal oscillation or climate change?  The statistics answer is easy to discern.  For Tampa, scientists cannot say that its temperature specifically is driven by climate change.  But when the whole country is changing, that is a different story.  Montgomery is a little more difficult.  I tracked down Dr. Spencer's webpage  and learned that he believes, "Climate change — it happens, with or without our help."  His research is into whether the climate change we are observing is natural or man-made.  He agrees that the climate is changing. This seemingly disparate information contains a valuable lesson.  Where there is no controversy or skepticism, it is easy to make choices of what to do.  Where controversy surfaces, however, to move forward, one needs to understand precisely what is controverted.  And often, of course, that will have to be done by degrees as understanding matures.

Climate Change | Climate Change Effects | Weather


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