Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

It’s that time of year


OUR OPINION: The 2014 hurricane season begins Sunday and, for a change, the insurance outlook is sunny

Flashback to 1965: Hurricane Betsy plays havoc on Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue.
Flashback to 1965: Hurricane Betsy plays havoc on Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue.

A long-standing ritual begins Sunday.

Hurricane season is upon us again — Florida’s version of a never-ending Ground Hog Day.

But there’s good news in this cycle: The predictions call for the number of named storms through Nov. 30 at roughly 10, with five morphing into full-fledged hurricanes and only two of these actually threatening us.

And there’s encouraging news from the state’s largest insurer, Citizens Property Insurance: Its coffers are brimming and at the ready to withstand the financial hit of a Category 4, a la Hurricane Andrew.

We haven’t heard talk like that in a long time.

“Going into the 2014 hurricane season, we are in the best financial shape we’ve been since we were established in 2002,” company spokesman Michael Peltier told the Editorial Board.

That’s comforting news for the company’s 940,000 statewide homeowner policy holders — 458,000 of them live in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties.

The devastating run of storms in 2004 and 2005, which depleted Citizens and the now $13 billion strong Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, have faded from memory. And that lull in storms is one of the reasons Citizens has been able to repair its finances, replenishing its coffers to a current $7.3 billion surplus.

Another way Citizens bounced back was by dropping nearly 600,000 Florida policyholders. That hurt — in the pocketbook and the wallet.

The painful extrication of so many of us has done wonders for Citizens.

Good for the insurer, but bad for so many of us who were kicked out and are now paying higher premiums. As a consequence, Citizens has weathered some negative press in recent years.

Private companies, like Universal Property and Casualty and State Farm, have acquired thousands of Floridians’ policies through bundled take-outs. A clearinghouse now gives private firms the first look at new policies. That process will continue.

Angry over the financial toll that Florida residents absorbed, Dominic M. Calabro of Florida TaxWatch issued a statement, urging state insurance reform: “We are still paying for the storms that hit our shores 10 years ago, through assessments on our insurance policies,” he said.

He makes a good point.

Every hurricane season is a crap shoot. And this season there is an added concern, mainly for Miami Beach.

What if storms coincide with high-tide floodings currently plaguing that city? That could introduce a new kind of storm damage to our area. Let’s hope not.

As for the notorious roll call of storm names for this year, here it is: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.

We all know the get-ready drill should any of them approach. And if “the bad one” comes our way, South Florida residents should make sure that they have food and water sufficient for at least 72 hours.

This week is a good time to stock up on supplies. It’s the Hurricane Supplies Sales Tax Holiday, which means consumers won’t have to pay tax on things such as flashlights, batteries and generators.

And here’s hoping that South Florida gets to the other side of hurricane season intact and unscathed.

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