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May 2020 preview: Historical catastrophe activity

May is a precursor to the beginning of the hurricane season, and the month is historically an active one for catastrophes. In fact, last year was the most active May in the decade with seven catastrophes totaling more than $5.8 billion in insured losses.

In the past 10 years, PCS® designated 44 catastrophes in May, which led to nearly $36.5 billion in insured damages from more than 4.3 million claims. The catastrophes included 42 wind and thunderstorm events, which resulted in more than $36.1 billion in insured loss; one volcanic eruption event (Mt. Kilauea) that caused an estimated $280.7 million in insured damage; and one tropical storm event (Tropical Storm Alberto) that resulted in more than $65.3 million in insured damages.


Interestingly, PCS has designated only two volcanic eruption events in the past 40 years, and both occurred in the month of May.

While May 2019 was the most active month in recent years, May 2011 had the most estimated losses ($7.4 billion) and claims (850,000). The largest May event of the last ten years was Catastrophe 48 in 2011, which included losses from the EF-5 tornado that caused tremendous damage to Joplin, Missouri, and its surrounding areas. The event affected 20 states.

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


To get access to vital PCS information on the go, download the new PCS-Mobile app for iPhone and Android

Ted Gregory

Ted Gregory is director of operations for PCS at Verisk. You can contact Ted at

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