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10 years later, Hurricane Andrew would cost twice as much

If Hurricane Andrew were to roar into South Florida today, the insured losses would be double what they were in August 1992.

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Another Andrew-like storm would "deliver a shocking financial blow."

Andrew, which crashed into Homestead, Fla., on Aug. 24, 1992, left
$15.5 billion in insured losses in its wake. Today, if another hurricane like Andrew took the same path of destruction, it would cause in excess of $30 billion in insured losses, according Don Griffin of the National Association of Independent Insurers.

In addition, the losses resulting from business closures due to another Andrew-like storm would "deliver a shocking financial blow" to the insurance industry as well as Florida's economy, according to Robert Hartwig, chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute.

Hartwig estimates that if 5 percent of the businesses in six south Florida counties closed due to a major hurricane, that would translate into the closure of nearly 2,500 businesses, lost sales of $3.8 billion, $81.8 million in lost sales tax receipts, $79.8 million in payroll losses, and the loss of more than 30,000 jobs. Those counties are Broward, Dade, Hillsborough, Lee, Monroe, and Palm Beach.

If you think a 5 percent closure rate seems high, consider this: Hartwig says this rate is actually quite "modest" because it is approximately half the business-closure rate following Andrew.

Andrew in perspective

Until Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Andrew was the world's worst "disaster of record." According to a report commissioned by the office of then Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, the devastation included:

  • 23 deaths directly attributed to the storm.
  • 28,066 homes destroyed.
  • 107,380 homes damaged.
  • 82,000 businesses destroyed or damaged.
  • 7,800 business closed as of September 1992.
  • 86,000 people out of work as of September 1992.

By comparison, nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the Sept. 11 attack and insured losses from that event are currently estimated at $40 billion. Still, Andrew tops Sept. 11 for the sheer number of insurance claims it produced. According to Hartwig, insurers handled more than 700,000 claims compared to just over 31,000 claims as a result of Sept. 11.

When inflation and increases in coastal population and wealth are taken into account, Andrew's 1992 total losses of $26 billion would now cost in excess of $41 billion, according to Christopher Landsea, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

According to Landsea and Roger Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, tropical storms that made landfall years ago would cause signficantly greater damage today simply because the population has increased.

In their study, Normalized Hurricane Damages in the United States: 1925-1995, the researchers point out that Dade and Broward counties in 1990 "were home to more than the number of people who lived in 1930 in all 109 counties from Texas through Virginia along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts."

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