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Climate Change Expected to Increase Storm Activity in Texas

Source: Willis

Posted on 26 Jan 2010

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Climate change will likely increase the frequency and severity of storm activity in Texas, an area of the country that is especially vulnerable to the "triple threat" of hurricanes, hail storms and tornadoes, weather researchers said today at a conference at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business sponsored by the Willis Research Network.

The Willis Research Network, part of Willis Group Holdings, the global insurance broker, is an industry-leading public-private partnership between Willis and many of the world’s top scientific research institutions.

Speaking at the conference, Dr. Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) said that straight-line winds - the violent air currents that usually accompany thunderstorms and are produced when areas of low and high pressure collide - represent a growing threat to homes and businesses. Compared with hurricanes, tornadoes and, to a lesser extent, hail, such winds are a relatively small contributor to structural damage at present, he said, but as the climate changes, NSSL researchers believe these events will become more frequent and therefore contribute more significantly to overall damage.

“Based on what we know about the potential patterns of climate change, we expect severe storm activity to increase in Texas and the Midwest, including higher activity of straight-line winds with potentially damaging effects,” Dr. Brooks said.

One way to mitigate against storm damage is to build stronger buildings. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), better building performance can be assured by spending a few percent more on construction that goes beyond the minimum building code requirements.

According to Dr. Tim Reinhold of the IBHS, homeowners who build new homes or retrofit existing homes following guidance offered through the IBHS Fortified…for safer living® program are much less likely to suffer damage or be displaced from their homes when severe weather strikes. “The Fortified…for safer living® homes in Hurricane Ike performed remarkably well structurally, and had minor interior damage,” Reinhold said. “Of the approximately 200 homes located in one residential area affected by Ike, 14 remained standing after the storm. Ten of those houses were ‘Fortified’.”

Insurance companies can play a significant role in motivating property owners through incentives to retrofit their properties with enhanced roofing materials, shutters, proper garage bracing, soffit strengthening and other enhancements that will reduce the likelihood of severe damage. This could save the average home/business owner thousands of dollars in costs associated with being unable to use the property for weeks or months while it is being repaired, as well as saving insurance companies millions of dollars on insurance claims.

According to Kyle Beatty, Business Leader for Willis’ Catastrophe Management Services unit, “Property owners, communities, and insurance companies should work together to prepare for extreme wind risk by adopting appropriate building standards. This collaboration could mitigate the damaging effects that cost insurance companies and taxpayers millions of dollars each year. “

About SMU Cox

The SMU Cox School of Business offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a recently established Risk Management Program, as well as innovative professional development resources that help individuals and companies prepare for the future. Major publications-including BusinessWeek, The Economist, Financial Times, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal-rank SMU Cox among the top business schools in the nation and around the world.

About the Willis Research Network

The Willis Research Network (WRN) is focused on evaluating the frequency, severity and impact of major catastrophes and seeks to help society at local and global levels manage these risks and share the costs of these events via public and private sector approaches. To achieve this mission, Willis has teamed up with 32 leading institutions across a full range of disciplines from atmospheric science and climate statistics, to geography, hydrology and seismology, to assess the impacts on the environment via engineering, exposure analysis and Geographic Information Systems. Additional information can be found at