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Florida’s losses from a big hurricane could reach a mind-blowing $200 billion

Note: This article appeared on Sept. 1st, just before Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle

Florida has had a remarkable run of gambler’s luck over the past decade. It’s been that long since a hurricane struck the state that usually gets them every two years.

Since Hurricane Wilma made landfall at Cape Romano near the pointy end of the state in 2005, about 20 hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic Ocean and hit other states, and more than 60 wobbled off to deep waters without harming the U.S. coast. But Florida’s string of good fortune might be at an end.

A storm is on the horizon, projected to hit the Florida Panhandle late Thursday or early Friday. Forecasters predicted that Tropical Storm Hermine would only gush rain, but they recently elevated it to hurricane status. Floridians have many reasons to worry. The sea level is rising faster than first predicted, and analysts who assess potential property damage say that contributes to Florida being more vulnerable to massive losses than any other state.

Hermine lacks the power to cause a worst-case scenario like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, but even as a Category 1 storm, it will serve as a reminder of what could be. Mere nuisance flooding already causes drainage systems to bubble over in the Miami area, and strong winds can roil Tampa Bay until it’s level with sea walls that guard roads and homes.