Gonzalo fell short of Fabian, but TS Fay punched above her weight
Tropical Storm Fay inflicted more damage to the Island than 2010’s Hurricane Igor, a local insurer believes — while Hurricane Gonzalo, though a powerful storm, ultimately fell well short of the widespread devastation wreaked by Fabian in 2003.
BF&M senior vice-president Glen Gibbons said that it was too early in the aftermath of Gonzalo to give an accurate picture of the levels of damage left behind after the storm moved onward in the early hours of Saturday.
“It’s early days yet,” Mr Gibbons told The Royal Gazette.
“We’ve received, as of this morning, about 200 claims, which surprised me — I had expected more with Gonzalo, to be honest, although obviously I’m very glad that it wasn’t worse.”
Asked for a ballpark figure of the cost on Bermuda, the insurer said: “We’ll have to get more details about how strong Gonzalo was — Fabian back in 2003 was a strong Category 3, and certainly the damage it caused was well in excess of what Gonzalo seems to have home.”
Mr Gibbons added there were probably 100 houses that he visited after Fabian, from Southampton to the Foot of the Lane, that don’t seem to have any damage this time around.
“That’s not to belittle it, because we’ve seen others who have lost the vast majority of their roofs and sustained a lot of property damage. But I’m surprised that I’m not seeing a lot more tarpaulins up.”
A Category 3 hurricane packs winds of 111 to 130mph, on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, with a Category 5 being the worst.
Based on reliable forecasts, the Bermuda Weather Service had expected Hurricane Gonzalo to strike much in the way that Fabian did 11 years ago — but in the run-up to the storm, BWS director Kimberley Zuill also said the hurricane might well lose power once it reached the cooler waters of Bermuda, with the possibility of wind shear deflating some of its power.
Gonzalo powered up as it neared Bermuda, reaching Category 4 strength.
Its initial impact was strong, but Gonzalo dropped to Category 2 midway through its passage over Bermuda.
However, Mr Gibbons said that Tropical Storm Fay, which hit hard on the morning of October 12, “definitely punched above her weight”.
Thus far, BF&M insurance has dealt with around $3.8 million in Fay-related claims, across all classes.
“I’m not convinced that it was just a Tropical Storm — in spite of what the weather service tells us,” Mr Gibbons said.
“To date, we’ve had some 375 claims from Fay. I’d say 80 per cent of the calls are for property like homes, businesses or construction. Then we’ve got marine accounts, and cars that were damaged by falling debris. After Fay, we had a team in the office for reporting claims and people out in the field assessing right away that afternoon. We like seeing and photographing the claims within a brief period of time, and our customers like to see us — it allows them to take a breath.”
Mr Gibbons said people whose properties were damaged in the hurricane should “act as if they’re not insured — look after the damage as soon as possible”.
The insurer was open by 8.30am after Hurricane Gonzalo passed on, and at 9am yesterday to take calls. It will be fielding claims and assessing them throughout this week, along with other local insurers.