Tropical Storm Lee is making its way through the Southeastern U.S. bringing torrents of rain and the fear of widespread flooding. On its heels is Hurricane Katia, which has forecasters baffled as to where it will be heading. Lee made landfall over the weekend, inundating Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and parts of Louisiana with water. The storm will put strain on an insurance industry that is already reeling from the passing of Hurricane Irene last week and has many worried whether the industry can handle another flood disaster.
Flood insurance is rare in the U.S. While many insurers offer such policies to inland properties, the risk of homes in flood prone areas has kept insurers at bay. This lack of coverage was meant to be mitigated by the National Flood Insurance Program, overseen by FEMA, but the program has fallen prey to overwhelming financial pressures. Insurers are hoping for a best case scenario, in which flooding will be widespread, but the number of levee built to protect communities will hold against the surging tide of water.
If levees fail, however, Lee will cause tremendous damage to communities that lie in the the storms path. These fears are particularly acute in Louisiana, where 2006’s Hurricane Katrina reaped a costly toll. Eqecat, a catastrophe modeling agency, noted that the storms meandering progress is likely to amplify the damage it causes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is, in the meantime, keeping an eye on Hurricane Katia. The hurricane is currently lingering in the Atlantic, going through phases of weakening and strengthening. The fluctuating storm has baffled forecasters and it has proven elusive to tracking, thus far.