It’s no secret that Florida is one of the single most hurricane-prone strips of land in the world. This “land of sunshine, state of dreams,” as the celebrated Florida historian Gary Mormino dubbed Florida, seemingly attracts tourists, snowbirds and storms in equal measure. Indeed, seven of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history touched Florida, according to the Insurance Information Institute. To put that in dollars and cents, hurricanes have caused an average of about $2.3 billion dollars in damage every year over the last three decades, figuring for inflation.
Florida’s unique exposure to risk is largely a function of the high concentration of development along the state’s 8,400 miles of coastline. In 2012, an estimated 79 percent of all of Florida’s insured property value, equal to roughly $2.9 trillion, was located in coastal counties, according to the global risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide. About 60 percent of that value is located in just 10 counties, largely in the South Florida and the Greater Tampa Bay metro areas.
In the short term, the amount of people and property at risk is only expected to grow as coastal property values continue to climb, construction continues and growing numbers of people choose to make Florida home. And over the longer term, rising sea levels and potentially stronger storms could amplify the number of communities at risk to some of the worst impacts of hurricanes, like storm surge. The Tampa Bay region is particularly vulnerable to impacts of the latter, in large part due to the shallow bathymetry of the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay.
Last year, the risk modeling firm Karen Clark & Company named the Tampa Bay region the single most at-risk area in the country for storm surge, estimating that a major hurricane could cause upwards of $175 billion in property damages. A number of efforts are underway across the region to adapt local solutions to the challenges posed by sea level rise. Read more >>