PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

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July 10, 2014

More than 3,800 Port Arthur, Beaumont homes at 'extreme' risk from Category 1 hurricanes

PORT ARTHUR — More than 3,800 properties in Port Arthur and Beaumont face “extreme” risk of flooding from the storm surge of a Category 1 hurricane, according to CoreLogic’s 2014 Storm Surge Risk Analysis.

Based on simulations conducted by the research and analytics company, more than 92,000 homes in Port Arthur and Beaumont are at risk from hurricane-driven storm surges.

In the highly-improbable scenario of every at-risk home being hit by a Category 5 hurricane at the same time, the total reconstruction value would be approximately $14.7 billion.

“The numbers are huge,” Tom Jeffery, CoreLogic senior hazard risk scientist, said. “And we’re not saying that that’s every going to be that case — that in a given year, six years, or even a decade, that we’ll see this kind of damage all at once.

“But it’s very important for people who feel that their home is at risk, to go to an insurance adjuster and find out exactly what their risk-level is. They will get the benefit of finding out what they should ensure their home for, as well as get assurance about any worst-case scenarios.”

Such worst-case scenarios are how CoreLogic determines a property’s “risk value.” Jeffery said that the company runs simulations on a storm surge model — adjusting the magnitude, direction and pressure to determine “the worst possible storm within each hurricane category.”

“We identify how much water is going to be pushed from the storm and how much of that is going to wind up on land,” he said. “We look for depressions in the land that the water could fill and any type of barriers that could prevent water from moving inward. We look for how much water the storm could push in, where that water will end up, and how high it will be in each area. From that, we lay it on a property map to identify which homes are the most vulnerable.”

A home’s vulnerability is assigned a surge risk value from low to extreme, with a corresponding numeral of 1 to 5.

“When we say a home is at ‘extreme’ risk, we’re looking at a Category 1 hurricane,” Jeffery said. “Where is that Category 1 going to hit? It’s the lowest magnitude, so it’s going to hit the homes closet to shore and probably lower in the ground. If a home floods for a Category 1, it’s at extreme risk because it is going to be affected by any type of storm.”

The system progresses by asking which homes won’t flood from a Category 1 hurricane but will flood from a Category 2 hurricane. Those properties are identified as “very high” risk. Homes that won’t flood during a Category 1 or 2, but will during a Category 3 are labeled “high” risk. The cycle continues down to “moderate” risk homes and, eventually, “low” risk — properties that can only be affected by a Category 5 hurricane.

CoreLogic’s analysis lists the following totals for at-risk homes in Port Arthur and Beaumont:

• 3,879 face extreme risk — flooding possible beginning at Category 1

• 32,147 face very high risk — flooding possible beginning at Category 2

• 31,447 face high risk — flooding possible beginning at Category 3

• 10,630 face moderate risk — flooding possible beginning at Category 4

• 14,205 face low risk — flooding possible only at Category 5

Once a home has a surge risk value, it is given an estimated reconstruction value. These numbers are based on current market values within the geographic area of the home.

“It’s based on each individual property — not an average,” Jeffery said. “It factors in the square footage, the year built, material costs and labor costs — all these different parameters to calculate how much it would cost to reconstruct each of these homes.”

Jeffery said the best way for people to know the storm surge risk of their home — as well as how much it would cost to repair — is to contact their insurance company.

“If a home owner thinks their home may be at risk, it’s good to find that out,” he said. “If they go to their insurance company and inquire about their flood risk, there’s a double assurance of talking to someone about how to insure their property and to educate themselves about what can be done.”

Email: chenderson@panews.com

Twitter: crhenderson90

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