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The Big Apple is at big risk for hurricane damage, analysis shows

June 07, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • The Lower Manhattan skyline. A new report by CoreLogic estimates $168 billion in damage if a powerful hurricane hit the Big Apple.
The Lower Manhattan skyline. A new report by CoreLogic estimates $168 billion… (Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images )

If a powerful hurricane raked New York City, it could destroy the region's economy by causing more than $168 billion in damage. And that doesn't include the potential death toll.

That's the assessment in a report released Thursday by CoreLogic, an analytics firm that evaluated the threat that hurricanes pose to the East Coast.

The firm's annual Storm Surge Report pinpoints the vulnerabilities of single-family homes to storm-surge damage along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. This year's report, for the first time, also assesses the risk to large metropolitan areas. When it comes to potential financial damage, the New York City area tops the list. 

Previously, the Big Apple didn't immediately come to mind when one thought of areas threatened by hurricanes. But Hurricane Irene changed all of that. In August, residents along much of the East Coast -- even in regions not normally considered vulnerable to hurricanes -- found themselves bracing for the storm.

Irene lost strength as it made landfall and was later downgraded to a tropical storm. Nonetheless, the storm caused more than $15 billion in damage, claimed more than 50 lives and caused widespread evacuations and flooding along the East Coast, including parts of New York City. 

"The summer of 2011 gave us some startling insight into the damage that even a weak storm can cause in the New York City metro area," Howard Botts, vice president and director of CoreLogic's database development, said in Thursday's announcement about the report.

Despite Hurricane Irene's weakened fury, "economic losses mounted swiftly as businesses shuttered, the New York City mass transit system came to a sudden halt and emergency response teams were called into action to prepare for the worst," he said.

The report found that the densely populated New York City metropolitan area, which includes northern New Jersey and Long Island, could potentially suffer hurricane losses of more than $168 billion during a particularly powerful hurricane or series of storms.

CoreLogic says this data are useful for insurance providers and financial services companies, as well as homeowners who may mistakenly believe they are too far inland to be affected by a hurricane.

"When a storm strikes the coast, storm-surge flooding can inundate homes far inland and cause significant losses from powerful surge waters, damaging debris and standing water left behind,” Botts said.

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+ or Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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