When a Major Hurricane Hits New England, the Costs Will Be Huge

In a worst-case scenario for New England, some parts of Cape Cod would be flooded by 10 feet of water or more

It's been 81 years since New England was hit by a major hurricane, the great New England Hurricane of 1938, and 28 years since any hurricane made landfall here.

A lot has changed since then: there's been a population boom, the price of real estate has skyrocketed and more people than ever before live on the water.

And with all of that, the price of Massachusetts' worst-case scenario hurricane, one that travels along the coast, could be $72 billion, according to the latest in catastrophe modeling.

"Along the coast, where we have the higher hazard intensity, you see the higher losses as well," said Mohammad Shoraka, senior flood engineer at Karen Clark & Company.

The Back Bay catastrophe-modeling firm can predict the dollar amount of property damage in a major storm.

In that worst-case scenario, some parts of Cape Cod would be flooded by 10 feet of water or more. Property damage statewide could reach $36 billion, and wind damage would double that total.

That information is crucial for insurance companies, which "don't want to have a lot of exposure in one single area," Shoraka said.

If one insurance company were to insure too many homes in an area hit by a major hurricane, it could make them financially insolvent. And most homeowner insurance policies don't cover flooding, that's why homeowners buy into the National Flood Insurance Program.

But that program does not cover storm surge, and it only pays out $250,000 in total loses for floods it does cover.

Although the New England hurricane they modeled would be one of the costliest disasters nationally, there's another one that tops the list, according to company CEO Karen Clark.

"The worst disaster is likely to be an earthquake, and most likely an earthquake around L.A., where there is over a trillion dollars of value, just in L.A.," she said.

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