10 Years After Andrew: More Expensive Hurricanes Probable

Ten years ago this month, Hurricane Andrew tore a swath of destruction through Florida that, at the time, became the costliest disaster ever. Today, experts estimate the cost would be twice as high. Is your community ready?

Insure.com just published a special report that reveals that if a Category 5 hurricane hit one of five other major metropolitan areas that are likely targets, the cost could be astronomical.

"Bracing for the Most Expensive Hurricanes Ever" shows if Andrew roared through South Florida today, the same $15.5 billion of insured losses incurred in 1992 would now likely total more than $30 billion because the South Florida population has increased and wealth in the region has grown.

The report also notes the cities most vulnerable to cataclysmic hurricane damage are Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York City and Tampa. The most devastation would be caused if a Category 5 hurricane were to make a direct hit on Miami and then veer off and slam into New Orleans, the report predicts, causing severe flooding along the Gulf Coast before losing its punch. Under this scenario, insure.com estimates that the United States could suffer two $100 billion losses at once.

The losses resulting from business closures following another South Florida hurricane of Andrew's magnitude would "deliver a shocking financial blow" to the local economy and the insurance industry, predicts Robert Hartwig, the chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute. Some 70,000 insurance claims were filed following Hurricane Andrew, compared to just over 31,000 claims following the Sept. 11 attacks. If just 5 percent of the businesses in Southern Florida closed due to a major hurricane - not unlikely since the business closure rate following Andrew was approximately 10 percent - Hartwig says it would translate into the closure of nearly 2,500 businesses and a loss of more than 30,000 jobs and lost sales of $3.8 billion.

Insure.com offers these tips to help employers and home owners survive a hurricane:

Before a hurricane hits:

  • Plan a meeting place to ensure that everyone knows where to meet so that employees or family members can be accounted for. Pick an emergency contact for everyone to call should families or employees become separated.
  • Take a first aid class.
  • Prepare any trees around the property by removing dead or diseased limbs.
  • Evaluate insurance coverage to make sure buildings, furnishings and equipment are insured for replacement value.
  • Check out windstorm coverage; you might need a separate policy.
  • Think about flood coverage. Do you need it?

During a hurricane watch:

  • Stay aware by listening to a battery-operated radio or television for reports.
  • Be ready for the worst and make sure emergency supplies, such as batteries, flashlights, water, etc, are adequate. Turn refrigerators and freezers to their highest setting while you have power, and try not to open them. Fill bathtubs and sinks with fresh water.
  • Lock up and board up windows, remove small objects that could cause damage in high winds, turn utilities off if you're evacuating, remove antennas and anchor down objects, such as picnic tables, that could blow around outside.

During a hurricane warning:

  • Stay tuned to local weather reports and listen to official instructions about evacuations. If you are in a mobile home or a temporary structure, evacuate immediately.
  • Stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Secure windows and shutters. Keep the supply of batteries and flashlights handy. Avoid using open flames as a source of light. If the power goes out, turn off major appliances, computers, etc, to avoid damage from a power surge when electricity is restored.
  • If you've been ordered to evacuate, leave immediately. Before you leave, unplug appliances, turn off electricity, the gas main and the main water valve. Make sure you tell someone who is not in the storm area where you are going.
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