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2020 August preview: Historical catastrophe activity

By Ted Gregory  |  August 7, 2020

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is still expected to be a busy one, despite a brief lull in activity after a fast start in May and June. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a 60% chance of an above-normal season with as many as 19 named storms and up to 10 hurricanes.

Although the hurricane season officially started on June 1, the formation of tropical cyclones is possible at any time, as shown by the formations of tropical storms Arthur and Bertha on May 16 and 27 respectively. This marks the sixth consecutive year with pre-season systems and the first time since 2016 that two or more named storms developed before the official start of the season. It is also the first time since 2012 that two or more named storms formed in May.

Early season activity continued into June and July, with Tropical Storm Cristobal becoming the earliest third named storm on record when it formed on June 2. Tropical Storm Edouard became the earliest fifth named storm on record, having formed off the east coast of the United States on July 4, and Tropical Storm Fay followed as the earliest sixth named storm when it formed on July 9. Gonzalo and Hannah will be the next two named storms of 2020.

In the past ten years, there have been 28 PCS®-designated catastrophes in August totaling $32.2 billion paid on insured losses from nearly 2.7 million claims. Hurricane and tropical storm catastrophes alone accounted for almost $20.3 billion of these losses from over 800,000 claims. 2019 was the most active year for total catastrophe events in August, with seven designations totaling $1.9 billion. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was the largest single August event in the past ten years.

Two other notable August hurricanes, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, caused $15.5 billion and $41.1 billion in insured losses, respectively.

The following graph illustrates catastrophe activity for the month of August from 2010 to 2019 in terms of dollar losses and claim volume.


Ted Gregory is director of operations for PCS at Verisk. You can contact Ted at tgregory@verisk.com.