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One big reason we may miss 2013

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, January 10, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

I don't know anyone who waxed nostalgic at the passing of 2013, do you? In fact, rather than strike up a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" on New Year's Eve, most of us would have opted instead for that "Sound of Music" sing-along, "So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, adieu," and marched the loser of a year off into the Swiss Alps.

At times, the world seemed to be coming apart at the seams last year. The highlight reel -- make that lowlight reel -- included a plane crash in San Francisco, a train crash in Spain, the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., Syrian gas attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing, a deadly Brazilian nightclub fire, a Bangladesh factory collapse, a massive Oklahoma tornado, Typhoon Haiyan devastating the Philippines, on and on and on.

A not-so-bad year for insurers

But the new Natural Catastrophe Year-in-Review report from the Insurance Information Institute and reinsurance giant Munich Re Insurance shines one enormous ray of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy year. While 2013 may have been rough at times on our bearings, it turns out to have been a spring walk in the park from an insurance perspective.

Insured losses in the United States last year totaled $12.8 billion, far below the annual loss average of $29.4 billion since the turn of the century. Perhaps just as noteworthy, $10 billion of that $12.8 billion insured tab was due to thunderstorm damage, despite the lowest tornado count in a decade. The costliest states for natural disaster losses during the year were Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Oh, and remember that above-average 2013 hurricane season that forecasters predicted last spring? It didn't happen. Non-event. In fact, 2013 was the first year since actress Anne Hathaway was born (1982, represent!) that just two hurricanes hit these shores, and our first year without a Cat 2 storm since "Hair" brought the age of Aquarius to Broadway (1968). Can you name the two U.S. hurricanes of 2013? Me neither.

Disasters went elsewhere

Most major natural disasters occurred elsewhere in 2013. In fact, the number of loss events worldwide totaled 880, well above the 10-year annual average of 770. Costliest in terms of human life was Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines. The costliest in economic terms was the flooding in Germany and neighboring countries, with combined losses of $15.2 billion.

Not surprisingly, U.S. homeowners insurance companies enter 2014 in a much better position to withstand what fate may hold in store, with net income up 54.7 percent since 2012 and surplus cash at an all-time high of $624.4 billion.

While I'm still glad to see 2013 in the rearview mirror, we may come to miss its strangely calming effect on weather-related events in the year ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @omnisaurus.

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