The Heat Is Online

Jan. 1999 losses

INSURERS PAY CATASTROPHE CLAIMS TOTALING NEARLY $2 BILLION IN FIRST MONTH OF 1999: THIRD-WORSE JANUARY EVER

NEW YORK, Feb. 17 -- (Insurance Services Office) -- U.S. insurers paid catastrophe claims totaling an estimated $1.75 billion for property damage from four January, 1999 events, making this the third-costliest January since 1949 when modern catastrophe-loss record keeping began, according to Insurance Services Office, Inc.'s Property Claim Services (PCS) unit.

This January's catastrophe losses already exceed by $750 million total catastrophe losses for the entire first quarter of 1998.

Nearly 800,000 claims resulted from severe weather and winter storms in the eastern half of the country, including an outbreak of tornadoes in Arkansas, according to ISO's PCS. Arkansas posted the greatest catastrophe losses of any state at $250 million, resulting from the tornadoes. Other large January losses occurred in: New York, $130 million; Pennsylvania, $115 million; New Jersey, $95 million; and Michigan, $90 million.

Two winter storms caused over $1.2 billion of insured damage in 29 states in the first two weeks of January. Two other storms in the last two weeks of the month produced severe weather across the south from Texas to Georgia, causing another $500 million of insured damage.

Catastrophe losses for January this year were exceeded only by January losses in 1994, when the Northridge, Calif. earthquake caused $12.5 billion in insured damage, and four other January 1994 events pushed the total for cat losses to $13.7 billion; and in January 1996, when five separate storms and tornado outbreaks resulted in $1.9 billion in insured property loss.

ISO's PCS unit defines a catastrophe as an event that causes $25 million or more in insured property losses and affects a significant number of property and casualty policyholders and insurers.

The PCS estimate represents anticipated insured loss on an industry-wide basis arising from catastrophes, reflecting the total net insurance payment for personal and commercial property lines of insurance covering fixed property, personal property, vehicles, boats, related property items, business interruption and additional living expenses. The estimates exclude loss-adjustment expenses.

Copyright 1999 Insurance Services Office, Inc. All rights reserved.