As Hurricane Ian approaches landfall along Florida’s west coast this morning, RMS’ model product manager Jeff Waters sat down with The Insurer TV to discuss the storm’s likely impacts.

Hurricane Ian has continued to intensify on its approach to Florida’s west coast, where it is set to make landfall in the coming hours.

“As of this morning, it’s very close to being a Category 5 intensity storm,” Waters told The Insurer TV. “It’s nearing landfall in the Port Charlotte, Florida area some time early this afternoon, local time.”

At the time of writing Ian’s maximum sustained winds of 155mph were just short of the 157mph threshold for a Category 5 hurricane.

“Wind is not the only component of this storm. We expect this storm to also bring very powerful catastrophic storm surge, and very heavy rainfall throughout the entire impacted area, and throughout a lot of the state of Florida,” Waters said.

The coastline close to landfall could face 12-18 feet of storm surge, the National Hurricane Center has warned.

While Ian’s track has been likened to 2004’s Hurricane Charley, the current storm’s windfield is much larger than was the case with Charley.

“Ian is much larger, meaning a larger area is going to be impacted. With that larger size comes more potential for damage,” Waters said.

Jeff Waters, model product manager, RMS

He added that the storm’s forward movement speed when it reaches land will be a significant factor in damage impacts.

“The faster a storm moves, the more quickly it can move out of harm’s way,” Waters said.

“But should the storm slow down, those damaging conditions will persist for a lot longer.

“That is also important from a storm surge perspective. The longer a storm sits over an area, the more water – especially tidal cycles – it can interact with.

“This can lead to persistent coastal flooding, which we know can be a major driver of damage.” 

Waters said a slow-moving storm can also amplify rainfall impacts which in turn can further exacerbate flood risks.

He added that the modelling firm would continue to monitor the event beyond landfall, with plans to issue an industry loss estimate once the necessary data has been collected.