The MTA Procures Storm Surge Protection via the Catastrophe Bond Market

Where the bets are big and the potential payoffs even bigger

NOAA does have a program called HURISK, which models the return paths for storms along the coasts. That, Franklin says, offers some idea of the odds that a Sandy-size storm will return to the city: "For New York City, it's once every 175 years for a major hurricane, and once every 25 years for a hurricane."

Even if New York does see a second superstorm sooner than predicted, the surge would have to hit at a certain angle to flood the subway system.

"A storm that parallels the coast and comes into, say, Long Island from the south-southwest—it would count as a hurricane, but it wouldn't be approaching at the right direction to cause a lot of flooding in the New York subway system," Franklin explains. "Only certain orientations of the hurricane would do that kind of damage."

Put simply, Franklin says, "To get another surge event like that in New York in the next three years is really unlikely."

In other words, investors are likely to make a killing. According to Risk Management Solutions, Inc., the agency the MTA employed to calculate the risk, there's only a 1.67 percent chance of an equivalent storm surge every year.

The odds are firmly in favor of the bettors, to whom the MTA is prepared to shell out $27 million.

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Steven Hlavac
Steven Hlavac

"One of the agency's consultants floated the idea of a catastrophe bond..." Floated. I get it...

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