Hurricane Irma Likely to Make Landfall in Florida or the Southeast U.S.; Devastating Winds and Storm Surge Expected

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE I.I.I. New York Press Office: 212-346-5500; CSU Press Office: 970-491-7099;


NEW YORK, September 6, 2017 — Hurricane Irma made landfall on several of the northern Leeward Islands over the past 24 hours and is now tracking northwestward towards Puerto Rico. It also is looking more likely to make landfall along the Florida coast or the Southeast U.S. as a major hurricane—the second major storm to hit the United States in about two weeks. Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) subject matter experts are available to assist reporters with questions on insurance coverage, the insurance industry’s disaster response and how this storm differs from Harvey.


“Irma is currently one of the strongest Atlantic storms on record, packing maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. The only hurricane in the Atlantic that has been stronger than Irma was Hurricane Allen in 1980,” said Dr. Philip J. Klotzbach, meteorologist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (CSU) and a nonresident scholar with the I.I.I. “Low vertical wind shear (the change in wind direction with the height of the atmosphere) and warmer than normal sea surface temperatures were the perfect recipe for this extraordinarily strong storm,” he noted.


“It is likely this storm will be more of a wind event than a flood event,” said I.I.I. CEO Sean Kevelighan. “We urge anyone in the path of the storm to listen to local authorities, while also doing what is needed to prepare, such as reinforcing windows with shutters and taking a home inventory, if time permits. If you have to evacuate, bring your financial documents, including your insurance policy, so you can start the claims process once the storm has passed,” said Kevelighan. “Keep in mind, the more prepared you are, the greater the potential to be more resilient and withstand damage.”

Top 10 Costliest Hurricanes In The United States (1)

($ millions)

        Estimated insured loss
Rank Date Location Hurricane Dollars when occurred In 2019 dollars (2)
1 Aug. 25-30, 2005 AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, TN Hurricane Katrina $41,100 $52,828
2 Sep. 19-22, 2017 PR, USVI Hurrican Maria (3) 25,000-30,000 26,100-31,300
3 Sep. 6-12, 2017 AL, FL, GA, NC, PR, SC, UV Hurricane Irma (3) 25,000-30,000 26,100-31,300
4 Aug. 25-Sep. 1, 2017 AL, LA, MS, NC, TN, TX Hurricane Harvey (3) 18,000-20,000 18,800-20,800
5 Oct. 28-31, 2012 CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH,
Hurricane Sandy 18,750 21,065
6 Aug. 24-26, 1992 FL, LA Hurricane Andrew 15,500 25,867
7 Sep. 12-14, 2008 AR, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, OH, PA, TX Hurricane Ike 12,500 20,861
8 Oct. 10-12, 2018 AL, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA Hurricane Michael (3) 9,000-12,000 9,200-12,200
9 Oct. 24, 2005 FL Hurricane Wilma 10,300 13,239
10 Aug. 13-14, 2004 FL, NC, SC Hurricane Charley 7,475 9,906

(1) Property losses only. Excludes flood damage covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program. Ranked on dollars when occurred. As of September 30, 2020.
(2) Adjusted for inflation through 2019 by the Insurance Information Institute using the GDP implicit price deflator.
(3) Insurance Information Institute estimate based on data from catastrophe risk modelers, reinsurance companies, the Property Claims Services unit of Verisk Analytics, the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. These estimates are preliminary because the organizations involved periodically resurvey the events, and the severity of losses and other factors create a high level of uncertainty surrounding the ultimate loss figures.

Source: Insurance Information Institute, catastrophe risk modelers, reinsurance companies, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the Property Claim Services® (PCS®) unit of ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® company, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

View Archived Tables


Wind damage from tropical storms and hurricanes is covered under standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies. Flood damage is excluded under standard home and business policies. Separate flood coverage can be purchased from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and some private insurers.


Damage to cars from tropical storms and hurricanes is covered under the optional comprehensive coverage available with a standard auto insurance policy. Nearly four out of five drivers choose to purchase comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage for automobiles includes wind damage, flooding and damage from falling objects, such as tree limbs.


As Hurricane Irma prepares to make landfall, the number one priority is public safety. Mandatory evacuations are already in place in parts of Florida. Heeding evacuation orders is imperative. The I.I.I. recommends that Floridians recall the lessons from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Wilma in 2005. Not only can high winds be deadly; storm surge is also a serious threat to human life. Residents near coastal areas and inland bodies of water should have a plan for evacuating from flood-prone areas—and be ready to put that plan into action.


For more information, visit the following resources:

Facts and Statistics

Flood Insurance


Hurricane Fact File: Florida


Consumer and Business Resources

Avoiding Scams After a Disaster

Disaster Planning for Older Adults

Filing an Auto Insurance Claim

How Do I File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

Preparing an Evacuation Plan

Trees and Insurance


Background Papers

Catastrophes: Insurance Issues

FEMA Report on Impact of Hurricane Ike

Flood Insurance

Residual Market Property Plans



Disaster Planning with Pets

Filing a Homeowners Claim

Learning About Hurricanes with Dr. Phillip Klotzbach



Additional Resources

Colorado State University

FEMA: Coming Home After a Flood; Debris Removal Guidelines; How To File A Flood Insurance Claim

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety


The I.I.I. has a full library of educational videos on its YouTube Channel.




Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500;


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