Everyone was reminded of Katrina's 10 year Anniversary at the end of August which sparked my thinking about my time in Florida in 2005. Hurricane Katrina brought disruption to where I lived in Broward County, FL, but Hurricane Wilma brought devastation, as the eye mowed right over my hometown. Wilma, a name most commonly known for Fred Flintstone's dainty wife, made a roaring landfall on the southwest coast of Florida on October 24, 2005 as a Category 3 hurricane exactly a decade ago. Few could have believed it possible back then, but Florida's coast has not seen a hurricane since.
Wilma, packing 120mph winds, had the lowest central pressure recorded (882 mb), making it the strongest hurricane in documented history in the Atlantic Basin. Wilma caused atleast USD 19.8 Billion of economic loss (in 2015 dollars) making it one of the Top 10 costliest hurricanes in the United States.
I've been through many hurricanes, but Wilma definitely left a lasting impression on us Floridians. Hurricane Wilma caused the largest electrical disruption in Florida. Ninety-eight percent of South Florida customers lost electricity. We were without power or running water for at least 7 days and visited a FEMA station frequently. Even after the winds had calmed, we spent weeks cleaning up debris that littered our community.
Ironically, Hurricane Season was always my favorite time of year growing up. I made my mom get me maps every summer at the grocery store so I could track the tropical activity myself. I religiously watched Max Mayfield, the Director of the National Hurricane Center from 2000 to 2007, and dreamt about the day I would be on TV talking about the weather.
Hurricane Katrina and Wilma solidified my decision to pursue my interest in Meteorology. I attended Penn State University (PSU), where it's said that "one out of every four meteorologist went to PSU." I had the opportunity to finally meet Max Mayfield, when I worked at the Hurricane Research Division (HRD) the Summer of 2008, and I also attended dozens of events at the National Hurricane Center.
While at HRD, my interest in meteorology evolved into Natural Catastrophes and economics, "how weather affects the economy." This eventually brought me to my Underwriting role on the Property Treaty team. In this role, I've been able to witness firsthand the important part insurance plays in helping communities get back on their feet in the wake of a natural disaster.
Since Wilma in 2005, a staggering 2.1 million people have moved to Florida and the numbers continue to rise. As the exposures and the risks increase around the world, especially in Florida, we must ensure residents not only understand their risk, but they are also protected financially.
Time and time again, I am reminded how a dream of being a TV meteorologist when I was nine years old has evolved into Global Catastrophe Risk Management. Even though Wilma caused complete disarray to my town senior year of high school, I am grateful that I was able to decide on my career path through these historical events ten years ago.
Sources: Sigma, Accuweather, The Weather Channel, Sun-Sentinel, Fortune
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Floods/storms