Property losses from Colorado flood will be about $2 billion

by Reuters
Thursday, 19 September 2013 01:45 GMT

By Keith Coffman

DENVER, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Property losses from flooding in Colorado will total nearly $2 billion, about half from housing and half in the commercial and government sectors, catastrophe modeling firm Eqecat said on Wednesday in the first comprehensive estimate of the disaster's economic toll.

The projected residential property losses alone would be equivalent to more than $200 for each of the 4 million people who live in Colorado's 17 flood-stricken counties, based on 2012 census data, and most of the overall losses are uninsured, the firm said.

About $900 million is projected to come from damaged or destroyed homes, including the lost furnishings and belongings and costs incurred by displaced residents to live elsewhere until their dwellings are repaired or replaced.

Another $1 billion is attributed to losses estimated for commercial and government property, including roads and bridges, Eqecat senior vice president Tom Larsen told Reuters.

The projection - small compared with Eqecat's initial estimate of $20 billion in total economic losses from Superstorm Sandy last year - comes as Colorado is still coming to grips with widespread devastation from floods unleashed by torrential downpours last week.

Eqecat's loss projection for Sandy was later revised upward to $50 million, which Larsen said ended up being in the realm of most final estimates from that disaster.

Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, said the Eqecat figures struck her as credible.

"This is a good first snapshot of the extent of the damage, based on the numbers of buildings damaged and destroyed that we're seeing," Walker said.

She said the recent flooding in Colorado ranks as the state's most destructive natural disaster on record in terms of its geographic scope and severity of property damage.

At least 1,700 homes were reported as destroyed, most of those in hard-hit Larimer County, and an estimated 16,300 dwellings have been damaged throughout the flood zone, according to preliminary estimates from state and county officials.

Rescue teams in helicopters and military vehicles scrambled on Wednesday to reach the last pockets of survivors known to have been stranded by historic floods that have killed at least eight people in the eastern foothills of the Rockies.

The U.S. Department of Transportation offered $30 million in additional flood relief to Colorado on Wednesday to help restore hundreds of miles of washed-out or weakened roads and bridges, though state and county officials say repair costs will ultimately run many times higher.

A preliminary assessment of the state's transportation infrastructure showed damage of $40 million to roads and $112 million to bridges, the U.S. Transportation Department said in a statement.

Repair costs for state and county roads are likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Amy Ford said.

She said the state's Transportation Commission has allocated its entire $100 million contingency fund for emergency highway and bridge repairs and would seek reimbursement from the federal government.

In Boulder County, another area that bore the brunt of flash floods last week, early estimates put the cost of repairing damaged roads and bridges at $150 million.

Sewage treatment plants and other utilities have been knocked out in a number of towns. And standing water left by floods on prairie farmlands east of the Rockies posed the threat of significant damage to crops already planted in the region.

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