September 15, 2016
We love to talk numbers in insurance (almost as much as we love our acronyms). In our industry, numbers can be so large as to boggle the mind, like when astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tells you that there are 100 octillion stars in the universe. Whether it’s our trillion dollars in premiums, billions in annual fraud, or millions in negative verdicts, one thing is clear: Numbers in our world? They can astound.
I had that same dumbstruck feeling of awe about another number last month: 6.9 trillion. That’s how many gallons of rain meteorologists say drowned southern Louisiana from August 8-14. It’s an absurd amount of water that CNN strangely said was enough to “fill 10.4 million Olympic-size swimming pools.” Was the magnitude made clearer with this comparison because we were all cheering on Michael Phelps while he swam in one the same day that a 500-year flood was beginning?
I know the flooding in Louisiana won’t cause too many coverage headaches for our industry—there’s no wind versus water, no major levee breaches, nothing on the surface that can be argued out in court. But I wish the number of in-force National Flood Insurance Program policies hadn’t shrunk from 494,370 the year after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina to 452,208 in June 2016. I wish more than just 28,000 NFIP policyholders had submitted claims as of August 25, because then I could be more optimistic for the rebuilding prospects for the 230,000 citizens of Baton Rouge and for the state’s entire population. But I can’t. The numbers just don’t back it up.