It has been nearly a decade since a hurricane has impacted Florida, a state which has been hit by seven of the 10 most costly and damaging hurricanes in U.S. history. But despite the recent lull, another devastating storm could impact the Sunshine State in the near future.
“It’s very unusual,” AccuWeather.com Expert Hurricane Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. “This is by far the longest that state has gone without a hurricane hit going back to 1851.”
According to the Insurance Information Institute, Florida accounted for 14 percent of all U.S. insured catastrophe losses from 1983 to 2013, or $66.8 billion out of $478.4 billion adjusted for inflation in October 2014.
“Florida is just one of those areas that is most vulnerable because they’re in an area, geographically, in which tropical storms can easily maneuver and make landfall,” Kottlowski said.
The 2015 hurricane season in the Atlantic will likely see a lower-than-normal number of tropical storms, but just because there is a lower number forecast, the possibility that a major hurricane, category 3 or higher, could devastate the Florida coastline is still a threat, according to Kottlowski.
With eight named tropical storms, four hurricanes and one major hurricane predicted for the Atlantic Basin this season, AccuWeather.com’s long-range forecasting team anticipates two or three of these systems to make landfall in the United States.
“In 1992, it was an El Nino year, and Andrew was one hurricane that is used as a poster child for this,” he said. “This is the big thing that keeps me up at night; you have to plan ahead.
According to Executive Vice President of the Florida Insurance Council Sam Miller Hurricane Andrew caused more than $23 billion in insured property losses, and is just one example of the losses the state has endured in the past.
“Hurricane Andrew forced individuals, insurers, legislators, insurance regulators and state governments to come to grips with the necessity of preparing both financially and physically for unprecedented natural disaster,” according to the Insurance Information Institute.
In 2004, the state was struck by four consecutive hurricanes, all making landfall, within a period of six weeks. The last major hurricane impact the state suffered was from Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
“It’s just incredible what we went through,” Miller said.
According to Kottlowski, the events of 2004 were unusual but not unprecedented.
“If a weather pattern sets up and does not change much over the weeks and months, you can see that,” he said.
Due to the frequency of events throughout the state’s history, hurricane damage is covered in all standard homeowners insurance policies, Miller said.
However, flood insurance is usually separate in standard policies and is covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.
Florida leads the nation in the number of flood policies, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, with about 2 million policies in effect in 2013, the Insurance Information Institute reports.
With new policies in place following Andrew, and emergency funds secured, the industry is prepared to handle the claims following another disaster like Andrew, Miller said.
Flood insurance is critical to living in a vulnerable area along the Florida coastline.
“Storm surge is by far the number one cause of damage in most hurricanes,” Kottlowski said.
“Florida property insurance rates are among the highest in the country, but you have to begin to finance them now,” Miller said. “It just takes one nightmare hurricane to wipe everything out in the system.”
If a major hurricane was to make landfall near Miami, due to increased growth of the area, the Insurance Information Institute reports that an event similar to the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 would cause approximately $125 billion in insured damages.
“You have to have a system in place,” Miller said.
Kottlowski said he encourages all homeowners living in vulnerable areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to review their insurance policies and understand what is covered during an event of a major hurricane.