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Hurricane preparedness

Will 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew pique interest in peak hurricane season?

Twenty-five years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew sent a blaring wake-up call throughout Florida that reverberated in all coastal states. The call said, loud and clear, that when you ignore the risks from Mother Nature, you lose. Florida learned just how vulnerable it was to catastrophic storms. But not all those schooled by Andrew remember the lessons.

The Tampa Bay Times lists 25 things to remember on the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. There’s the surprise regarding the storm’s strength, the death toll, the cost of the damage, and the fact that if the storm had veered toward Miami, rather than the less densely populated Homestead, deaths and damage would have been much more severe. Swiss Re said in a report on Andrew that if a similar storm hit today, economic losses would be between $80-100 billion in current US dollars; only $50-60 billion would be covered by insurance. The shortfall would be paid by taxpayers and governments.

Lessons from Andrew still resonate for insurers. For example, the case for more resilient construction was a major lesson. Today, Florida has among the strongest building codes in the nation. The need to more carefully manage risk and to spread risk globally were also well learned.

Yet, not everyone remembers what they learned 25 years ago. Memories fade. This week is a good time for a refresher – because late August is peak hurricane season. Andrew hit on August 24, 1992, in what was supposedly a “less active” season. That storm blew away any notions we held about betting on odds for weaker storm strength in a so-called off year.  Now is a perfect time to look at a hurricane season checklist and be prepared for an eight-week run of increased storm activity in these peak times.

A cure for complacency

The biggest threat to recovery after a natural disaster is the mass of people who are unprepared for it. After every single tornado, hurricane or flood, the media easily find people who have been impacted by the event, and they invariable say nearly the same thing: “I never saw it get this bad before.” Sure, seeing is believing. But even then it’s not enough. Those who’ve been through a devastating event think it can never happen to them twice. Until it does.

Time to start your hurricane-defying preparedness

Hurricane from above

It’s mid-May – and another hurricane season is about to be breathing down our necks. Maybe you’ve grown immune or indifferent after seasons of weather threats proved wrong. A word of advice: Never let your guard down.

Did recent reminders of the need for storm vigilance get your attention in 2016? Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew hit Florida last fall. If neither storm affected you, it might be easy to ignore them. The weather is wild and, despite all the scientific tools available, it’s hard to predict where the winds will go and how powerful they will be.

What you don’t know about preparing for bad weather can hurt you. For example, did you know that Hurricane Matthew last October blew up to be a Category 5 hurricane within a 24-hour time frame? If you are surprised, so were weather experts; they said no other storm had intensified that quickly. Read the report about Matthew defying weather forecast models, and then thank our lucky stars that it landed as a Category 1.

What if you prepared for a Category 1 (wind speed up to 95 miles an hour), but a Cat 5 with winds of 165 mph arrived instead? We don’t like to think about it, but thinking on it and acting on it – in advance – is storm-defying behavior. It’s time to review our Hurricane Season Insurance Checklist.

You may also like to up your awareness for the upcoming season by listening in to a couple of hurricane season awareness webinars from the National Hurricane Center. The NHC will be talking about new capabilities to issue advisories and warnings and also has a topic on inland flooding, which is an overlooked, yet deadly, threat.

Massive Matthew: This is not a drill


Florida Governor Rick Scott issued an executive order yesterday putting the entire state on notice that ill winds are coming. The National Hurricane Center continues to update its advisories, and hurricane watches and warnings are in effect. A warning means take immediate action. This is not a drill.

The hurricane drill may be a distant memory for some. Here’s hoping those who had experience with the storms of 2004 and 2005 provide quick tutorials, and the lessons are put into practice. If you are in an evacuation zone and in an area where a hurricane warning has been issued, get on the road — while you still can. Don’t fight with the authorities over your right to stay. Don’t fight with the wind because it’s stronger than you. The (often) arduous journey of your flight to safety is a better tale to tell than a first-person account of the physical mess Matthew is expected to deliver.

Be safe. Be Ready, Florida.

How mean Hermine?


We live in Florida; we know the drill. Yet, this might not be a drill but the real thing. At the time of this post (early afternoon on Thursday), the National Hurricane Center forecast had Tropical Storm Hermine extending her reach along our coastline. You can be glued to the TV watching weather reports – or you can be a person of action.  

How named storms matter to property insurance


Late summer is the peak time for hurricane season. And as if on cue, there’s a few storms brewing out in the Atlantic. It’s too early to tell if they will impact Florida, but it is not too early to prepare as if they are.

Review our hurricane season insurance checklist. First on the list is probably the most important: Make certain to have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home in the event it is severely damaged or destroyed. This means sufficient insurance protection to rebuild your home and replace all its contents.

Don’t confuse the real estate value of your home with its insurance cost. Typically, the older your home the bigger the gap between what it costs to insure it, which is the rebuilding costs, and what you would get if you sold it.