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What Florida Can Do To Reduce
Insurance Rates and Storm Damage

DINA NESHEIWAT

Florida has begun to feel hurricane effects, even before the season has officially begun. Many homeowners are definitely feeling the strain as they get their policies dropped from their insurance companies or they are paying dearly as they get hit with huge price increases. Forecasts show that this year, just like two years ago, there will be devastating hurricanes and the damages will be high.

Of course, one cannot totally blame the insurance companies entirely. Many of these agencies lost a lot of money in the 2005 year hurricane season and they are still counting their losses. Insurance agencies also need to purchase coverage to protect themselves from the massive amounts of claims from these storms. It is understandable that the more homes that are covered and protected against storm damage, the more this can help to reduce the cost of insurance premiums. In the state of Florida, an individual can look forward to the perk of receiving up to a 44 percent discount on their hurricane policy.

To help homeowners make improvements on their homes the state is providing $250 million through the Florida Comprehensive Hurricane Damage Mitigation Program. This gives free inspections and some homeowner's grants up to $5000 dollars to harden their homes to reduce the risk of wind damage.

To protect a home from Florida's weather and that will help reduce insurance rates, a lot can be done. Most homeowners ignore their doors and windows while getting ready for a storm, they can be protected by putting in a special hurricane fabric that is made to withstand winds up to170 MPH. At the same time, you can get adequate window protection for a lot less by adding storm shutters of wood or even plywood. Doors can be protected with door bolt materials and garage doors can be reinforced with horizontal bracing in each panel. Also, it's important to remember if you have tall trees near the house structure they should be trimmed and properly maintained as tall trees can fall on roofs and fences and this oversight could give a homeowner a huge repair bill. If the home has a gabled roof, tying it down with additional braces should help prevent some damage, but tile and aluminum roofs are preferable.

As a former Florida resident and an avid visitor, the talk of the town before Hurricane season hits is that flood insurance could make all the difference this year. The mindset of "It's not going to happen to me" has jumped out the window. Most Floridians know it is imperative and agree that it's better to spend some money and get insured, especially because flood insurance has a 30-day waiting period before it goes into effect.

So what has caused insurance companies to increase their rates or even drop coverage on a homeowner? What makes Florida different from the other states?

Hurricane statistics reveal that the area of Florida to South Carolina can routinely expect to be hit fully by tropical storms and hurricanes, though not every year. Also, some of the most powerful hurricanes of all times have struck in this region. This area breeds hurricanes. Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic in this region are normally in the low to mid 80's at least through September, and sometimes it reaches the upper 80's on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida. We know that hurricanes thrive when the sea surface temperatures are 79 degrees or higher, with no strong sheering winds aloft from another system, which would work to reduce convection. During the hurricane season, the Southeast is usually to the South of many strong sheering systems. So, hurricanes tend to keep or increase their strength and size when passing over these warm waters. Unless there is a strong trough of the Southeast, the hurricane's path will probably not re curve to the Northeast as eagerly as when they are farther North and come more under the influence of the upper level wind, which most of the time are the "westerlies."

Along with the hurricane problem is the large entry of new residents, especially retirees from the more Northern regions, to the Southeast. Several of these Northerners have yet to experience a category three or category four hurricanes, and a lot of these people have bought or built homes along or near the coast. From what we've learned with our experiences with major hurricanes like Hugo in 1989, Andrew in 1992 and Katrina in 2005, it is open to question about what percentage of these residents would actually evacuate their homes if a category three, four or five hurricane were to move in.

Many homes are constructed to survive winds of about 100mph. As the winds reach a higher speed, then roofs begin to rip off and windows are shattered. Flying debris also contributes to the damage. Along the coast, the storm surge would come in, sweeping parts of structures and sometimes entire structures apart. This is part of the reason why it is important that residents of Florida are aware of their insurance policies and the importance of safe guarding their homes and taking those extra measures and spending the money necessary to keep them from spending even more after their homes are damaged from severe weather.

Of course, new construction and residents are finding it difficult to find insurance on the coast of Florida, this holds true for businesses and residential areas. Has this slowed new development? Perhaps to some extent, yes. However, businesses and million dollar homes continue to pop up in the most vulnerable areas, completely uninsured. The possibility of total devastation and financial ruin exists purely for the chance to be located on the beautiful coast of Florida. Developers feel this is a chance they must take. Is it worth it? Only time will tell.

Bibliography

Hurricanes by Peter R. Chaston

Natural Disasters by Patrick L. Abbott

http://www.theweatherprediction.com by Jeff Haby

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-9618925_ITM