Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Hurricanes cost geometrically more than they did decades ago"

Scary piece from the Palm Beach Post. Excerpts.........

The start of the season finds Florida's insurance market in a "fragile" state, an analysis by Fitch Ratings concludes. The largest remaining private insurer, State Farm, has threatened to leave within two years. The state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens, is the biggest player by some measures. The state's catastrophe fund, a backup to the insurance market, stands at least $9.5 billion short of being able to cover its maximum repayment obligations, Fitch figures.

Part of the trouble is hurricanes cost geometrically more than they did decades ago. Florida's population has grown more than 500 percent since 1950 to more than 18 million.

"The hurricanes haven't changed much," Chris Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center, said in a recent meeting in West Palm Beach. "We just have a lot more people in the way."

"If a major hurricane strikes Florida this season, we all pay!"

A strong reminder on the eve of the season's start!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surf's up. Ana is that you?

As in the past 2 years, there's activity occurring before the official start of Hurricane Season on Monday. The low off the Carolina coast that was suspect this week has become Tropical Depression #1. Moving up the eastern seaboard, but well off shore, it's a race between intensifying into a named storm ("Ana") or fizzling out in the colder waters of the Atlantic.

Otherwise, looks like good surfin' conditions along the Atlantic Seaboard

And here in Florida, Hurricane Preparedness Week continues.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Countdown to the Season

Memorial Day Weekend in Florida is typically when the news media intensifies its coverage of the upcoming Hurricane Season. With 10 days to go the TV specials, special newspaper sections and "hurricane survival" preparation chatter reaches its pre-season pinnacle. For good reason.

This year's state-wide theme is: "Get a Plan"

In past years, this coming week (or the first week of June) would also be the time when the "tax holiday" would begin offering Floridians the opportunity to buy specific storm related items without paying sales tax. This would be a noticeable savings on large items such as generators or if you stocked up on large quantities of batteries, flashlights, tarps, coolers, plywood & the like. Not this year -- due to the state's recession-impacted operating budget. I know in my case that I am pretty well stocked from previous years so the tax savings wouldn't have been material for me. Here's the official list of items suggested to have on hand.

In some past years - and this year - we've had pre-season rainstorms that have provided us with much needed rainfall and put enough moisture on the ground to start the "rainy season" that typically runs parallel to Hurricane Season. Rainy season is what Florida is stereotypically known for - usually brief but intense afternoon thundershowers brought on by the day's heating and the clashing of sea breezes across the peninsula.

We've had a near record-setting 11 straight days of rain in the Tampa Bay area which has been sorely needed to refill our resevoirs & aquifer as well as get our brown grass to start growing again. Rain has been heavy enough in some counties that the Governor has declared a state of emergency in 11 Florida counties mostly in the Orlando area. It's expected to rain throughout the Memorial Day weekend and gradually begin to dry up a bit next week leading up to the June 1st kickoff.

This year's pre-season event even got to the point where weather forecasters thought it COULD turn into a named (Ana) "subtropical" storm as the weather system moved northwest across the state. This morning they are still keeping an eye on the system as it heads into the gulf and towards the Florida panhandle, but the odds are low that it will more than a soaking rain event. The past 2 years have brought about "named" storms prior to the June 1st:

2007: Andrea - Subtropical storm May 6-14 with wind up to 65 MPH
2008: Arthur - Tropical storm May 31-June 2 with wind up to 40 MPH

Memorial Day and pre-(Hurricane) season rain - it's a new Florida tradition!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Changes to the "Cone of Uncertainty"

From the Governor's Hurricane Conference in Fort. Lauderdale today, it was announced that due to better forecasting capabilities, the storm path cone, known as the "cone of uncertainty" is going to shrink. The cone is used to depict the projected area where the eye of a storm has a two-thirds chance of passing, based on five years of error analysis.

Because predictions are getting better, the circles that make up the cone can shrink, said the National Hurricane Center's Robbie Berg

The straight black line that usually runs through the cone, connecting the dots where the storm is projected to travel, will also disappear. Berg said the center is removing the line because people often mistake it as a landfall prediction.

Here in Florida we are constantly reminded not to focus on the black line but rather watch the width and direction of the cone.

In addition, the process for predicting storm surge will be modified with more emphasis on the size of the storm, not just the category.

Read more here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

More details on Florida's Insurance Rates going up

While Governor Crist hasn't YET signed it, details of the insurance regulation bill are available. Here are the highlights:
  • Citizens Property Insurance can aise rates a maximum of 10 percent annually until its rates are actuarially sound.
  • Increases rates 1 percent each year to recover the cost of extra payments to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, required for rapid reserve build-up.
  • Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund
  • Reduces coverage sold by $2 billion over the next six years.
  • Implements a rapid reserve build-up program over the next five years. Insurers will pay additional premiums each year.
  • Allows small insurers to purchase additional coverage from the CAT Fund.
  • Allows private insurers to pass on up to 10 percent of their reinsurance costs to policyholders through expedited rate filings.
  • Prohibits insurers from raising rates and then filing the required paperwork with state regulators until Dec. 31, 2010.
Here's the full story from the Miami Herald.

I don't believe this news has fully reached the over 1 million Citizen's Insurance customers in the state as well as everyone else here that will face higher rates partly due to the hurricane activity in 2004-5 and to protect the state's emergency Hurricane Catastrophe Fund in the future.

Wait till Charlie signs the legislation and watch for the fireworks! This won't be good.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Higher Property Insurance Rates for Florida coming just in time for Hurricane Season

In an effort to shore up the state's Hurricane disaster fund, homeowners throughout the state may be facing higher property-insurance bills. The measure, which easily passed both State chambers, would increase rates for customers of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by 10 percent a year. Also, customers of private insurance companies likely will see rate hikes, though the amounts could vary.

The bill is sitting on Governor Charlie Crist's desk as the week begins.

Hurricane Season starts in less than 30 days.