Risk of damage from natural disaster high in the Triad

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Most of the Triad and Northwest North Carolina is considered at high risk for damage from a natural disaster, particularly hurricanes, according to an inaugural report from a national housing market research group.

RealtyTrac released risk scores this week for 3,138 counties nationwide based on potential exposure to earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Individual county reports can be found at http://www.realtytrac.com.

RealtyTrac listed five risk categories: very high (50 to 75 score); high (40 to 45); medium (35); low (25 to 30); and very low (15 to 20). There were no North Carolina counties in the low and very low categories.

Of the 14 counties in the Triad and Northwest N.C., all but Alamance (35 score) had a high risk score of 40 to 45. Forsyth is at 40.

Daren Blomquist, a vice president for RealtyTrac, said potential damage from hurricanes is the biggest risk factor even though parts of the region border the northern side of what is known as the Southeast’s tornado alley.

“We show all counties in North Carolina rank either high or very high risk for hurricanes,” particularly damage from flooding or high winds, Blomquist said.

“Tornados are actually ranked very low risk and earthquakes are low to average risk.”

Still, some N.C. counties in the tornado alley – Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson and Sampson– are among the nation’s top 100 counties for natural disaster risk.

Interestingly, a significant section of the North Carolina coastline, including most of the Outer Banks counties, is in the medium risk category.

“Even though those counties are rated at the highest possible risk level for hurricanes, they are rated at the lowest possible level for tornados and earthquakes,” Blomquist said.

Potential risk for natural disasters is factored into N.C. homeowner insurance rates, particularly vacation homes along the coast.

“The purpose of our research is more directed to empower individual consumers and real estate investors with the same type of public record information that insurance companies and government agencies have access to.” Blomquist said.

“The potential risk of a natural disaster may not be the first item on most homebuyer checklists for a dream home.

“But prudent buyers will certainly take this into consideration, along with myriad other factors that could affect home value.”

A hearing will be held in August to address an impasse between the state’s insurance commissioner and the N.C. Rate Bureau over whether to approve a sharp increase in the rates this year.

The bureau is an independent group representing insurers writing policies in North Carolina. It typically asks for rate increases every year.

On Jan. 7, the bureau requested a statewide average increase of 25.3 percent, to have been effective Aug. 1.

State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin has not attempted to hide his frustration with the request, saying January“I believe the insurance companies should withdraw this rate filing immediately.”

Homeowners in Forsyth and Guilford counties would be subject to a 13.8 percent increase, while most counties in the Triad and Northwest N.C. would face an increase ranging from 21.1 percent to 29.8 percent. Yadkin County was spared for the most part, with the bureau asking for a 2.9 percent increase.

The rate would be higher for people who live in Winston-Salem and Greensboro. The average insurance rate hike would be 18.2 percent in those cities if the bureau’s request is approved.

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