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10:34 AM
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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'Halloween Irene' Just Latest Entry in Freakish Catastrophe Year

It may not be the most expensive event of 2011, but the pre-Halloween snowstorm that walloped the East Coast is another reminder that such incidences don't follow the models.

As I chatted with Insurance & Technology's executive editor, Anthony O'Donnell via Facebook chat Sunday morning, about the surprisingly strong snowstorm that slammed the Eastern Seaboard the previous day and left his family in New Jersey without power, I reminded him of my experience in another very intense mid-Fall snowstorm in Buffalo.

"Well," he replied, with sarcasm I could detect through the ether. "That's Buffalo."

But even in Buffalo, such a storm was unprecedented. And, of course, that was also true of this weekend's event, which was greeted fairly incredulously by those of us in its path. In New Jersey, they're calling it "Halloween Irene" — I guess when you're picking up branches and fumbling your way around your darkened house by candlelight twice before Thanksgiving, humor is the best medicine. The state was hit hard once again; at its peak, it had the most people without power of any state in the storm's path, and one wonders how many of those power lines and transformers were weakened by Irene.

There's not much insurers can do when weather patterns coalesce to bring a hurricane to the Northeast Corridor for the first time in a century and turn up the jets on winter while kids are preparing to trick-or-treat. No amount of modeling can prevent devastating tornadoes or earthquakes. But with each of these events, it is incumbent upon the industry to roll with the punches, provide an exemplary customer experience and redouble its efforts to prepare for the next unexpected, but unavoidable, CAT.

If you're an insurance technologist, this is another opportunity to make the case for fine-tuning your claims system, and make upgrades in other customer-facing systems. Some in the company may fear the cost of these efforts in the face of mounting losses and a sluggish economy. But you can tell them, as Don Draper did in an episode of Mad Men, "There will be fat years, and there will be lean years. But it is going to rain."

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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