Rate of Hurricanes Will Increase, Expert Warns

February 16, 2001

Hurricane forecaster William Gray predicted Wednesday during the Windstorm Insurance Conference in Orlando, that the nation’s East Coast, particularly Florida, was at the beginning of a period of more frequent hurricane strikes.

Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University concluded that with more people living near hurricane strike zones with pricier homes and belongings, the damage will be more expensive than at the beginning of the century. Insurance companies will therefore, he said, need to prepare by making certain homes can withstand hurricane strikes and that they have enough money to pay for the inevitable.

Although the Florida Residential Property & Casualty Joint Underwriting Association and the Florida Windstorm Underwriters Association are trying to prepare by passing along higher rates to policyholders, officials say they will ultimately need to borrow billions of dollars if hurricanes do hit Florida more often.

For consumers both inside and outside the windstorm area — generally east of Interstate 95 in South Florida — and the JUA, that will mean more assessments to repay bonds, which could raise premiums by literally hundreds of dollars each year if several storms were to hit. Already, the wind pool has issued $236 million in assessments since 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.

If a 100-year storm were to hit, the average homeowners policy, outside the wind pool, would be forced to pay $300 in assessments that first year. Depending on the storm’s severity, some predict the assessment could increase and go on for up to six years.

Gray said 22 hurricanes struck the East Coast between 1932 and 1965; seven hit between 1966 and 2000. Between 2001 and 2030, he predicted 16 hurricanes will hit the coast.

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