Twelve years ago Wednesday, Florida residents were just starting to try to reconstruct their lives after Hurricane Andrew. Lessons learned from Andrew left Florida in much better shape to meet the challenges of Hurricane Charley.
Hurricane Andrew caught Florida’s insurance industry totally off-guard, but spokesman Sam Miller says the brutal wakeup call forced changes that made insurers much better prepared this time around.
Sam Miller of the Florida Insurance Council says, “We’re not expecting rate increases, significant rate increases because of Hurricane Charley. You won’t have hundreds of thousands of people losing their insurance; you won’t have companies pulling out of Florida.”
Florida created its hurricane catastrophe, or “CAT” fund, after Andrew to make sure losses would be covered. The state also created the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation for coastal properties. The end result state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher says is you won’t see a flood of insurance bankruptcies.
“I think there’s the potential where we had 22 before to maybe have one this time, so all things considered, I think we’re in a lot better shape than we were after Hurricane Andrew,” Gallagher says.
Florida’s price-gouging law also came out of Hurricane Andrew, giving the state attorney general more tools to prosecute rip-off artists. Phones have been ringing off the hook at a special hotline set up to take complaints.
Charlie Crist, Florida Attorney General, says, “The fact that we had the price-gouging hotline up before the storm hit, for those people who had to buy products in anticipation of the storm, like plywood and stuff like that, it really helped us a lot.“
Utility companies put their experience to work too. Andrew left some Floridians in the dark for nine months, but just two weeks after Charley, lights are back on for 98 percent of his victims.
Hurricane Andrew was the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Hurricane Charley is the second-most costly, with insured losses of more than $7 billion.
You can donate to the fund by logging on to www.hurricanecharleyfund.com or call 1-800-FL-HELP-1.