February Extreme Winter Storm

With the central U.S. winter storm now freezing a large portion of the country, CoreLogic looks further into the effects of this storm.

Our first discussion focused on the temperature anomaly – the deviation of the cold temperatures this week from the normal temperatures. Leveraging the Pivotal Weather temperature anomaly map, we focused on the 40-degree anomaly region. In this region, the cold temperatures are a shock – beyond the typical experience of the average resident in the area. Shocks of this nature are coincident with significant damages to property, partially because actions that could avert damages are not intuitive. In our initial assessment, we identified over 23 million U.S. housing units affected, or nearly 15% of the U.S. housing stock.

Not all of the homes in this group are expected to incur significant damages from the freeze. Winter-temperature design guidelines, such as better wall and ceiling insulation, higher window standards, and the minimization of pipe exposure though insulation and reduction of piping in exterior walls, produce more resilient homes, but not all of the homes in the affected region are designed to the same standards. Using a combination of regional cold-weather design guidelines, low-regional temperatures and the temperature anomaly for this week, CoreLogic produced a gradient of risk in the area:

  • 10.3 Million housing units are in the regions of severe risk, with extremely low temperatures well below design temperatures
  • 5 Million more housing units are in regions of high risk
  • Another 3.5 Million housing units are in regions of elevated risk

Reviews of claims data for the most common report of loss (burst pipes) produce an average insured loss of about $10,000 per home. Only a small fraction of homes in these regions are expected to have burst pipes, but the consequences to restoration may be large.

February 16, 2021 | 3:24pm CT

The extreme winter storm of February is impacting a large portion of the U.S., with the National Weather Service reporting “Frigid Arctic air and dangerously cold wind chills to persist in the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley through midweek.” This storm is an unusually cold event, and it is useful to evaluate the storm versus the normal cold temperatures for this date (see image).

Approximately 23.5 million housing units (more than 15% of the national total) in the U.S. are in areas with today’s low temperature being 40 degrees Fahrenheit below the normal low temperature for the date, representing about one-sixth of the housing units in the country. Low temperature extremes of this severity are of special concern – in the milder climate areas, water utilities are often not weather protected to this level and freezing and widespread breakage of water supply lines is expected. In many areas, these low temperatures are associated with increased precipitation (snow and ice) which are likely to produce ice dams and other damage which may not be discovered until spring. Cold weather shocks have always occurred – what is unusual about today’s event is the severity combined with the coverage of 15% of the country’s housing stock. The damage to these homes is not isolated to the resident: the damage can trigger losses to insurers and/or impaired collateral for mortgage issuers. Although today’s event is not associated with climate change, a changing climate promises greater volatility in the weather patterns. Improvehazard hqd analytics at the portfolio level and property level can help us achieve resilience to extreme weather.

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