Hurricane Season Predictions vs. Reality – Through the Lens of an Independent Adjuster

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Because we’re living in a technological age, it’s easy for catastrophic insurance adjusters to assume that we understand almost everything about the world around us. However, while we have the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips, there’s one area where we still have a lot to learn – the weather.

Unfortunately, weather patterns matter a lot more than just deciding on whether you need a coat or shorts when you go outside. Storm systems like hurricanes and tornadoes can do severe damage, so it’s necessary to understand how to predict them. This also greatly affects our jobs as independent adjusters.

Many times the industry gets excited about a great prediction of what to expect from the coming hail storm or hurricane season, but how are the predictions doing verses the reality?

Today I want to look at hurricane predictions for the last five years and compare them to the actual results. We have mountains of data about hurricanes, but are we putting it to the best use and can you actually plan anything around these predictions? Let’s find out.

How are Hurricane Seasons Predicted?

For the most part, scientists are only able to make predictions based on past trends. While current weather data (temperature, wind speeds, etc.) can help inform their decision, the best way to predict new storms is to see what happened in years past.

The other factor is what’s considered a “normal” hurricane season. Before, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) used data from 1950-2000 to determine that an average season would see 11 named storms, six hurricanes, and two significant hurricanes. However, the new model is based on data from 1981-2010, which paints a different picture.

Now, an average hurricane season is listed as 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. Not a huge difference statistically, but one extra major storm can mean millions more in damages, so it’s a pretty drastic change overall.

Is This Data Accurate? Let’s Compare the last fast years

2012 Hurricane Season Predictions

  • 50% chance of a normal season
  • 25% chance of an above-normal season
  • 25% chance of a below-normal season
  • 9-15 named storms
  • 4-8 hurricanes
  • 1-3 major hurricanes

2012 Hurricane Season Actual Results

  • Apparently, the 25% chance of an above-normal season was enough, as this year saw an abundance of storms and hurricanes. In this case, NOAA came up short.
  • 19 named tropical storms
  • 10 hurricanes
  • 2 major hurricanes (including Sandy)

2013 Hurricane Season Predictions

  • 2012 made NOAA reconsider their forecast models for hurricane season predictions, so they were a bit more liberal for this year.
  • 70% chance of above normal season
  • 13-20 named storms
  • 7-11 hurricanes
  • 3-6 major hurricanes

2013 Hurricane Season Actual Result

  • Fearing the worst, this season turned out to be one of the quietest and least active in history. In fact, it was the lowest number of hurricanes since 1982.
  • 15 tropical storms
  • 2 hurricanes
  • No major hurricanes

2014 Hurricane Season Predictions

  • As we can see, looking at past data can skew results in one way or another. In 2014, the season was considered average based on the low results of 2013.
  • 70% chance of a normal season
  • 8-13 named storms
  • 3-6 hurricanes
  • 1-2 major hurricanes

2014 Hurricane Season Actual Result

  • This year was much lower than average, although there were still two major hurricanes (Edouard and Gonzalo)
  • 3 named storms
  • 4 hurricanes
  • 2 major hurricanes

2015 Hurricane Season Predictions

  • Because of the previous two years, this outlook was optimistic.
  • 70% chance of a below normal season
  • 6-11 named storms
  • 3-6 hurricanes
  • 0-2 major hurricanes

2015 Hurricane Season Actual Results

  • 8 named storms
  • 2 hurricanes
  • 2 major hurricanes

2016 Hurricane Season Predictions

  • Because the last few years were kind of all over the place, NOAA took a much more conservative view of the upcoming hurricane season.
  • 45% chance of a normal season
  • 30% chance of an above-normal season
  • 25% chance of a below normal season
  • 10-16 named storms
  • 4-8 hurricanes
  • 1-4 major hurricanes

2016 Hurricane Season Actual Result

  • This year saw an abundance of major hurricanes, including Gaston and Matthew, the latter of which caused significant damage and a cost of around $10 billion. Unfortunately, as 2017 would prove, this could become the new normal.
  • 9 named storms
  • 3 hurricanes
  • 4 major hurricanes

2017 Hurricane Season Predictions

  • This year was a pretty crazy year for storms and hurricanes, and NOAA predicted that it was likely to be an above-normal season. They just didn’t know how right they were going to be.
  • 45% chance of an above-normal season
  • 35% chance of a normal season
  • 20% chance of a below normal season
  • 11-17 named storms
  • 5-9 hurricanes
  • 2-4 major hurricanes

2017 Hurricane Season Actual Results

  • We saw the likes of hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria all strike within close proximity of each other, and we’re still seeing the aftermath of the damage caused by them. This year was one of the worst on record, especially considering the outcome of the previous four years.
  • 8 named storms
  • 7 hurricanes
  • 3 major hurricanes

Bottom Line – Are Hurricane Season Predictions Accurate?

Overall, it seems as if NOAA knows what it’s doing, and its models are about as accurate as we can get. While there can be some disparity between the numbers, the fact is that the weather can change on a whim. Some storms will turn into hurricanes, while others will dissipate before they make landfall.

However, if the past two years are any indication, we could be looking at stronger storms, which could spell disaster for those living in the pathway of these hurricanes. According to this year’s projections, we could be looking at seven named storms, four hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

So what is conclusion in how this plays into whether you will have a busy season as an independent adjuster?

Even if NOAA gets the prediction right….. no one can predict how many adjusters will be needed because we can’t predict how much damage will be caused, how many home will be destroyed, and how many lives disrupted.

While we as independent adjusters can’t plan on the weather, but people plan on us being super heroes and coming to help them when the need does arise, so let’s be ready this storm season, bags packed, trained up, and ready to go because……


Your Guide,
Chris Stanley

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