* Tropical storm winds expected for Manhattan
* Landfall possible around JFK Airport
* Bahamas likely taking a severe hit
By Ben Berkowitz
NEW YORK, Aug 25 Hurricane Irene is likely to
cause more insured losses in the Bahamas than 1999's
devastating Hurricane Floyd, catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide
said on Thursday, even as the storm increasingly tracks toward
a weekend landfall in the greater New York City area.
Floyd was one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record
when it hit the Bahamas more than a decade ago, and it later
prompted one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history as
well. AIR said Irene's path through the Bahamas made greater
damage than Floyd more likely.
More detailed estimates are expected on Friday, as the
storm passes over the islands and begins to take aim at the
Eastern United States.
While Irene has a long way to travel, and a great deal of
uncertainty still remains, more and more computer models on
Thursday suggested the storm would come very close to New York
City or perhaps even pass directly over it.
The last hurricane known to have made landfall in the city
proper was in 1821, causing a 13 feet storm surge that
inundated the entirety of lower Manhattan. City officials said
they are considering evacuations. [ID:nN1E77O0JL]
Beyond New York City and Long Island, the storm looks set
to hit large swaths of New England with heavy rains and wind,
potentially including Boston.
"If it follows its exact tracking you may not see exact
hurricane-force winds in the Manhattan area, it may be more
strong tropical storm-type stuff," said James Aman, senior
meteorologist at Earth Networks. "Certainly the south shore of
Long Island seems to be the area that's most under the gun
right now. A lot of (Northeast U.S.) areas will see high-end
tropical storm conditions here by the end of the weekend."
Aman said there is a chance, based on the current tracks,
that a Category 1 hurricane could make landfall Sunday
afternoon right around the area of JFK Airport, one of the
country's most important.
One expert in disaster modeling said it would be hard for
New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts to escape
"I would be surprised if New England completely gets by
without any damage on this one," said Peter Dailey, director of
atmospheric science for AIR, one of the three companies
insurance companies rely on to model their exposure to
Dailey said storm surge was a particularly important issue
for the Northeast, with low-lying areas susceptible to flooding
if the hurricane pushes the waters up substantially.
Much will depend, he said, on timing -- tides are expected
to be especially high on Sunday night, so if the storm hits
then, flooding could be exacerbated.
Shares in property insurers were about 3 percent lower on
Thursday, a sharper decline than the broader markets, as the
storm moved closer. Among those most exposed are AIG (AIG.N),
Chubb (CB.N) Allstate (ALL.N) and Travelers. (TRV.N)
(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz, editing by Matthew Lewis)