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Florence could topple Katrina as costliest U.S. hurricane ever

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Florence could topple Katrina as costliest U.S. hurricane ever
Workers attach hurricane shutters to a historic home along the Charleston Battery in South Carolina to prepare for Hurricane Florence. Experts say the Category 4 storm could cause $170 billion in damage. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Hurricane Florence could cause more than $170 billion in damage to the East Coast this weekend and become the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.

The Category 4 storm is expected to hit the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday and threaten cities in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

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Analytics firm CoreLogic calculated the $170 billion figure based on the projected costs of reconstruction after the storm.

Nearly 759,000 homes and businesses could be destroyed, the firm said. Damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 cost about $161 billion and was responsible for 1,400 deaths.

Whatever the cost toll from Florence, only a portion of the damages will be insured.

The hurricane could cause $15-$20 billion in covered losses from wind damage and flooding by the time it's over, according to Risk Management Solutions.

The catastrophe modeler looked at Hurricane Hazel from 1954 and Hugo in 1989, which both also made landfall along the Carolinas.

Tom Sabbatelli, an event response manager at RMS, said it's hard to predict how much damage Florence could cause.

"There can be potential for significant uncertainty in a forecast track for a storm like Florence that is so far offshore," he told Insurance Journal. "Every event has its unique characteristics so we're using that as a broad-brush first pass right now."

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For property owners who don't have flood insurance, it's too late now. Most insurance companies have a 30-day waiting period before such coverage begins.

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