Before Hurricane Dean blew through the Caribbean and into Mexico, killing 28, Hurricane Andrew was the last Category 5 hurricane recorded in the Atlantic. The 1992 monster terrorized South Miami-Dade County with 165-mph winds that gusted up to 200 mph.
It killed at least 15 people, destroyed 25,000 homes, damaged more than 100,000 and caused $26.5 billion in damage. And it would do more than twice as much damage today. The same storm, according to scientists quoted in today's Los Angeles Times, would do $58.5 billion in damage. Part of that is simple inflation. A dollar today is worth a 1992 dollar and change.
But a big piece is increased coastal development -- something federal, state and independent hurricane experts have been warning about for years. Just a year ago, climate experts with sharply divergent views about whether or not global warming influences hurricane strength or frequency banded together to warn about the larger threat from hurricanes: People putting themselves in the path of storms.
Federal insurance policies, local land use planning and people's unending desire to live and play near the sea all play a role. Private insurers are getting wise -- to the great chagrin of property owners -- and hiking rates in coastal zones, or denying coverage altogether. They have their bottom lines to consider. Our bottom line: Hurricanes Dean and Andrew are reminders that coastal development can be risky.
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