The devastating mudslides that struck southern California after torrential rains are likely to cause an economic loss of over $100 million and insured losses of at least tens of millions of dollars, according to an Aon Benfield division.
The latest weekly catastrophe recap report from Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting unit explains that the hardest hit areas, such as the cities of Montecito and Carpinteria, had not seen measurable rainfall since October 2017.
With some areas in the region affected by the major California wildfires in recent weeks as well, the scorched earth had been cleared of much of its vegetation leaving the are susceptible to mudslides and debris flows.
Impact Forecasting explained, “A strong Pacific storm system came ashore into California on January 8-9, as a plume of moisture led to substantial rainfall amounts across northern and southern sections of the state.
“The excessive rainfall led to major mudslides, including in Montecito, CA and Carpinteria, CA, as victims described a “wall of water” rushing down hillsides. The rainfall – which led to some of the highest calendar-day rainfall totals since 2014 around San Francisco – was too much for very dry soils to absorb. Additionally, given that the typical chaparral cover was burned away, this meant there was very little, if any, vegetation available to absorb the moisture.”
Rainfall totals as high as nearly 10 inches were recorded from this precipitation event and the resulting mudslides and debris flows have resulted in around 17 deaths.
Officials in California reported that at least 65 residential properties were destroyed and another 446 were damaged in Santa Barbara County alone, so the total property damage from the debris flows and flooding will have been much higher. Impact Forecasting said that another eight commercial properties were also destroyed.
The brokers catastrophe risk modelling and analysis unit said that the economic costs of the California mudslides would be over $100 million and that the impact to the insurance industry would minimally be in the tens of millions of dollars.