Panhandle residents and insurers are still making their way back to assess the damage, but some early projections are in: For Florida, Hurricane Michael likely will not be as costly as last year’s Hurricane Irma.
"Our expectation is that the loss is not going to be dramatic," said Shahid Hamid, director of the Laboratory for Insurance, Financial and Economic Research at Florida International University. "The properties are not as highly valued, and the number of affected houses are relatively small compared to (Hurricane) Irma."
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and CoreLogic estimate that insured losses could range from $2 billion to $4.5 billion, which does not include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.
Residential losses could range from $1.5 billion to $3 billion, CoreLogic said Thursday, while commercial losses could be between $500 million and $1 billion. CoreLogic noted these estimates were pre-landfall.
Hurricane Irma, for contrast, caused just over $10.4 billion in insured losses in Florida, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.
The difference with Hurricane Michael is that the areas it hit were more rural, meaning lower property values and less densely-packed.
By CoreLogic and PCI’s estimates, there were about 11,776 homes in Tallahassee at risk of storm surge and 32,769 in Panama City.
There may also be less flood damage, FIU’s Hamid said, because of the storm’s speed.
"Because the storm moved fast, it wasn’t able to dump a lot of rain in as much as (Hurricanes) Florence or Irma did," he said.
Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Bank, expects minimal long-term economic impact.
"Any economic damage will be small and temporary," he said in an email. "Panama City, the hardest-hit metro area in the Panhandle, accounts for only 0.04 percent of US GDP, and 0.06 percent of U.S. employment. Other metro areas in the Southeast were disrupted by the storm, but to a lesser extent. Most people will get back to work shortly after Michael leaves."
Citizens Property Insurance Co., the state-run insurer of last resort, did not have initial claims data as Thursday, though spokesman Michael Peltier said it had received a few claims calls. The bulk are expected Monday after homeowners return to the area.
The insurer has about 18,000 policyholders that were within the tropical storm winds cone, Peltier said.
Citizens will deploy several mobile response centers to affected areas as soon as possible. Policyholders will be able to file claims at these locations and receive checks for living expenses.
"Once we can, we’re just trying to get where our people are," spokesman Michael Peltier said.
Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.