Hurricane Hugo Would Cost $20 Billion in South Carolina Today

September 23, 2009

Hurricane Hugo was the most costly hurricane ever to hit the United States when it made landfall in South Carolina in 1989, causing $4.2 billion in insured damage. Since then, the total insured property along South Carolina’s coast has grown to more than $200 billion.

With the increased population and development since 1989, another Hurricane Hugo could easily cause $15 to $20 billion in damage, according to Allison Dean Love, executive director of the South Carolina Insurance News Service.

“Fortunately, the property insurance market has improved in South Carolina in recent years and there are number of measures home and business owners can take to mitigate potential losses and save money,” she said.

A number of changes have occurred in South Carolina since 1989:

The state has enhanced its building code and enforcement, including updating the requirement for protection of windows, doors and garage doors, and adding requirements for the protection of glazed surfaces, such as impact resistant glass or the use of storm shutters.

As of July 1, 1999, code enforcement officers charged with inspecting buildings were required to be certified and registered with the state.

The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) created the Fortified…for safer living single-family residential construction program. The program offers a package of “code-plus” upgrades that greatly increase a new home’s resistance to natural perils, including hurricane, tornado, wildfire, flood, freezing weather, hail and earthquake, as well as to interior fire and water damage. Specifically, Fortified requirements strengthen a home’s outer envelope– notably roof and wall systems, doors, glazed openings, and the foundation. More than 200 projects in 16 states have earned the Fortified…for safer living designation or are in various stages of completion. Forty-four homes in the Myrtle Beach area have earned the designation.

IBHS also selected the Chester County area to build a $40 million research center that will test the effects of wind, water, fire and hail on structures. This unique lab will have the ability to subject full-sized, 2,000 square foot, one- and two-story homes, light commercial construction and agricultural buildings to a variety of hazards, including realistic Category 3 hurricanes, wind-blown fire (mimicking wildfire embers), and hailstorms. The research center is scheduled to open Fall of 2010.

The South Carolina General Assembly passed the Omnibus Coastal Property Insurance Reform Act in 2007, a market-based law to help homeowners by increasing the availability of private insurance. A number of insurance companies have since come into South Carolina since the law was passed.

The law requires private insurers to give premium discounts to homeowners who have made their structures more storm resistant and provides tax credits for property owners who purchase building supplies used to make their homes more resistant to hurricanes, flooding or catastrophic windstorm events. The new law also allows tax credits for lower income property owners who pay more than 5 percent of their incomes toward insurance premiums.

The 2007 law allows homeowners to set up catastrophe savings accounts to set money aside, state income tax-free, to pay for qualified catastrophe expenses such as an insurance deductible or other uninsured costs associated with a hurricane, flooding or windstorm event.

The state also has a grant program that has given more than $4 million to more than 800 homeowners throughout the state.

Source: South Carolina Insurance News Service

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