The cost to rebuild and repair the damage inflicted by deadly Hurricane Ida across the Northeast is already estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.
Insurers were bracing for an estimated $40 billion hit earlier this week after the hurricane made landfall in Louisiana and tore inland through Alabama and Mississippi.
But the devastating flash floods, record rainfall and tornadoes seen in New York and New Jersey will push that figure even higher, experts warn.
The scope of the damage was still emerging as the cleanup continued Friday, with muddy debris and previously submerged cars being cleared from streets.
Others were assessing the floodwater – and in some cases tornado – damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure.
“It’s going to take a long while to count the cost for all of the damage to property, infrastructure, vehicles, and other facilities,” Steve Bowen, head of catastrophe insight at Aon, told Yale Climate Connections.
“Ida’s impact across the South was already going to run deep into the billions, but there is no question that the flood and convective storm damage in the Northeast is going to add direct financial loss costs with many zeroes to the final total.”
The federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program warns on its website that just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to a home.
Images have already emerged showing thousands of homes in New York and New Jersey submerged in feet of water. Some people even had to be rescued from their homes by boat after streets were turned into rivers.
The fact that many heating systems in New York City apartments are located in basements could drive the cost up significantly, Shelly Yerkes, senior director of insurance solutions at CoreLogic, told the Post.
“We’ll see significant structural damage to commercial and residential properties in line with what we regularly see across the country in flood events,” Yerkes said.
“One thing that stands out in NYC is many of the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems of these urban buildings are in the basements, so contents damage should be substantial in addition to the structure damage.”
An added challenge that homeowners may face in the coming weeks is that some insurance companies don’t include flood damage in their home insurance policies.
The infrastructure repairs made to New York City after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy could actually reduce the cost of damage, one expert said.
“The repairs from Sandy made NYC less vulnerable due to strengthening buildings and infrastructure, addressing deferred maintenance,” Tom Larsen, CoreLogic’s principal of insurance solutions, said.
“Ida’s effects on New Yorkers would have been worse if we hadn’t conducted these resilience-based repairs after Superstorm Sandy.”
But it isn’t just the physical damage to dwellings and infrastructure that has to be accounted for in the costs.
The storm also essentially shut down towns and cities with widespread power outages and major flooding that is still yet to recede – meaning businesses may remain shut, resulting in ongoing losses.
Insurance experts are already warning that any damage estimates may end up being higher because COVID-19 pandemic pricing has pushed up the cost of lumber and labor to rebuild.
The wind, storm surge and inland flooding damage to residential and commercial properties in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama alone could be between $27 billion to $40 billion, a CoreLogistics report says.
Full estimates including the damage to New York and New Jersey aren’t expected until next week.
Forecasters had warned of potential flash flooding in the region after Ida came ashore in Louisiana last Sunday and started moving northeast.
The ferocity of the storm, however, caught most by surprise.
Thirteen people were killed in New York City, with the majority drowning in their flooded basement apartments, while three people died in Westchester County.
An additional 25 people died in New Jersey. Most victims in the Garden State died in their submerged cars or were swept away getting out them.
A 19-year-old man was also found dead in a flooded apartment in Maryland, a Connecticut State Police trooper was swept away in his car and at least five people were killed in Pennsylvania, including one who was hit by a tree.