More than $1 trillion worth of homes at risk for hurricane damage this summer

Forbes
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The remains of a road are mired in debris and water from Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 31, 2012 in Mantoloking, New Jersey. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As June ushers in hurricane season, a new report warns that the number of  homes at risk is growing.

More than 4 million homes valued at a combined $1.1 trillion could be susceptible to hurricane-related flooding, according to a recent Storm Surge Report from real estate data firm CoreLogic.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company estimates that 4.2 million homes located on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts sit within storm surge risk zones, meaning they could be vulnerable to property damages in the wake of a strong hurricane. Storm surge, which refers to the abnormal rise of seawater during a hurricane that can flood coastal areas, was the culprit behind much of the damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy along the New Jersey Shore and in New York City, where a 13-foot wave submerged much of Lower Manhattan.

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The report comes as homeowners apply for aid money to fix damages dating back to Superstorm Sandy. Yet CoreLogic warns that there has been a "significant increase" in the number of homes at risk if another daunting storm strikes this season. And as home prices begin to recover, the potential financial toll related to the value of those properties is on the rise as well.

"Public awareness of the risk hurricane-driven storm surge poses to coastal homeowners has never been higher coming off the heels of Hurricane Sandy last fall," said Dr. Howard Botts, vice president and director of database development for CoreLogicSpatial Solutions in a statement. "Sandy was a harsh reminder of the potential destruction associated with storm-surge flooding, and of just how many communities are vulnerable to that risk, in areas typically assumed to be relatively safe from hurricanes along the northeastern Atlantic shoreline."

CoreLogic estimates that 10 major coastal metro areas account for more than $658 billion worth of property susceptible to storm surge. State-wise, Florida has the most real estate at risk: nearly 1.5 million properties worth $386 billion. Louisiana is second in terms of the total number of properties, with 411,000 homes.

The state of New York has roughly $135 billion worth of homes vulnerable to storm surge. The New York metro area, which spans the city's suburbs from North Jersey to Long Island, has the most homes at risk of any urban hub in the country — trumping even Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans — as well as, perhaps not surprisingly, the highest dollar amount ($200 billion worth of residences).

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In fact, the flood maps for the New York metro area were expanded earlier this year by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to include an additional 35,000 homes and businesses previously considered outside of designated flood zones.

A new factor CoreLogic took into account in this report: the potential impact of a climate-related rise in sea level. If a scenario were to transpire in which the sea level rose 1 foot, the Miami metro area would be most at risk.

"One recurring question in storm-surge analysis is whether or not climate change is affecting the development of hurricanes and causing an increase in the frequency or intensity of these events," explains Botts. "The geographic location and characteristics of an urban area along the coast will naturally contribute greatly to the level of risk resulting from a potential sea-level rise, as is the case in Miami with lower elevation and close proximity to ocean water."

Hurricane season officially commenced June 1 and lasts six months. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that there will be 13 to 20 named tropical systems — as many as 11 of which are likely to become hurricanes.

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