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All was quiet – too quiet? – on the hurricane front in 2015

Tue Dec 1st, 2015 on     Insurance Claims,    

This week marks an important milestone for Florida: We have officially completed 10 years of relatively quiet hurricane seasons, the longest stretch without a hurricane making landfall in 160 years of tracking such data. That, insurance companies will tell you, is a long time.

They will also note that the official hurricane season may run from June 1 to November 1, but storms can still occur during the winter and spring months. Everything else is changing, it seems — why not a shift in when hurricane conditions are at their peak?

This year’s reprieve comes thanks to El Niño, weather experts say. The weather pattern comes with its own quirks, though, so expect the unexpected. What we have lacked in hurricane activity we may make up for in severe weather systems, including tropical storms, that bring tornadoes and flooding to homes and businesses throughout the state.

Experts’ rain gauge remains half-empty

For insurance companies and state agencies, even a decade of quiet should not put us off our guard. There will be a big storm, they warn — maybe not this year, and maybe not next year, but soon. And when it hits, we will be ready.

For example, when that 100-year storm hits, the state’s emergency response systems will be better able to meet the challenge. A number of significant improvements have been made since Hurricane Wilma hit in 2005. According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the state has taken advantage of experience and technology to improve training, education and outreach.

Insurance companies are preparing by continuing to build up their reserves in anticipation of the inevitable. Healthy reserves, of course, mean that insurers can cover the losses and stay in business. For state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., adequate reserves mean no statewide assessment.

Consumers know, however, that building up reserves means collecting more in premiums or paying less or less frequently for property claims. It also may mean reconfiguring coverage to exclude certain types of damage or to impose higher deductibles or lower limits for more expensive types of claims. State regulators have some control over this — rate approval, for one — but not enough to deter insurers from trying new, more profitable approaches.

The other shoe always drops, but there should be a softer landing next time.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Florida dodges hurricane bullet for 10th consecutive year,” Jim Turner, Nov. 25, 2015

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