With Storm Surge analysis…are you asking the right question?


If you don’t ask the right question, you can’t be surprised when you get the wrong answer.


Wrong answers are often given to questions about complex situations, not because the answer to the given question is wrong, but because the right question was not proposed at the outset. It’s been said that the demise of railroads in the mid-20th century was because they thought they were railroad companies rather than transportation companies.  They failed to ask the larger, more fundamental question.


In addition, numerous answers to a complex question derived from different approaches can almost always produce a better understanding of the problem.


Last week we were on a call with an insurer who was concerned about the risk from storm surge. He wanted to get the best available data to help him predict his company’s risk from hurricane-driven water.


While HazardHub has fantastic tools for gauging the risk from storm surge, it got us to thinking – are we focusing too much on the tool and not enough on the objective? Have we gotten so precise (and in love) with our tools that we expect each of our products to provide the only correct answer?


The conversation changed when we asked, “What problem are you really trying to solve for? To find the best tool available to determine storm surge or to help determine whether or not the property is going to get wet?”  The client sat back and said, “No one has really asked me that before…my real goal is to determine whether the property will be subjected to external water.”


Here’s an example – Gulfport, Mississippi. A property in question is four miles from the coast. It’s too far from “Sea Level Water” that is part of our storm surge model and well beyond most “Distance to Shore” parameters often used in other underwriting approaches.


The property was also in the FEMA-Designated 500-year floodplain which in coastal areas is subject to flooding during hurricanes because hurricanes often produce torrential rains (> 15” in a short time period).  Along the Gulf Atlantic Coastal Zone, it is impossible to tell where storm surge ends and terrestrial flooding begins. After all, a claims adjuster doesn’t test the salinity of the water cascading through your property. What’s important is whether a property will be subject to water damage.


We also ran this location against the newest of our data sets – SurgeMaxTM, that measures “worst case” storm surge water levels for each hurricane category. Some locations will be subjected to excess water in a Category 1 Hurricane, while others won’t get wet unless it’s a cataclysmic Category 5 storm. This location was in the Category 4 storm band – it would be unlikely to get wet from hurricane storm surge unless it was a Category 4 or 5 storm.  Category 4 hurricanes make up only 6% of all Gulf/Atlantic hurricanes and occur, on average, once every 10 years.  Additionally, the probability of hurricane landfall of any category is spread along the entire Gulf/Atlantic coast which further reduces the risk for any given point.


We asked our data models three separate questions.  Here are the results:

  • Four (4) miles from the shore – outside of our Storm Surge model;
  • In a 500-year flood zone
  • SurgeMax predicts surge flooding only for Category 4 or higher hurricanes.
  • The property has our highest Hurricane probability grade.


While hurricanes bring storm surge, they also bring massive amounts of wind and rain. Even a tropical storm can inundate an area with lots and lots of extra water. Now the underwriter has not one but FOUR data points on which to drive a decision – more than what is available with competing storm surge models.


At HazardHub, we provide a multi-pronged approach for excess water/flood risk – FEMA Digital Zones, Non-FEMA Flood Model, Storm Surge Model and SurgeMax determinations. We provide multiple points of analysis that allow underwriters to make more informed decisions that available with other, competing systems. All in a single API call. At a price significantly less than competing systems.



If you’re concerned about risk from flood and/or coastal storm surge, contact us today. We’ll append a file for free, to let you see for yourself the power of HazardHub’s data.