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1 Nov 2013
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History & Culture


The impact that hurricane risk has on our economy is one that spans real estate, tourism and retirement demand in Beaufort County. However, the facts are apparent that we live in a relatively safe coastal environment than other areas of the country. There are many theories as to why the Lowcountry of South Carolina does not experience as many hurricanes as other coastal communities. Some say it’s the concave shape of the coastline, some say it’s the fact that storms tend to track east of here, following the Gulf Stream. It’s been hypothesized that high pressure systems typically travel from the Northwest and push any approaching hurricanes further out to sea. 

But the fact remains that history has proven that the local area is less vulnerable for major storms. According to the National Weather Service in the last 100 years, only 2 major hurricanes have hit South Carolina. Compare that with 19 strikes in Texas, 20 in Louisiana and 37 major hurricane strikes in Florida. 

So we should be paying much less for homeowner property insurance than those other areas, right? Wrong, and there are Lowcountry residents that are doing something about it. 

Darryl Ferguson is on a mission. And the effort the retired Beaufort resident and his supporters are putting forth is the right thing to do for Lowcountry property values. Mr. Ferguson has organized an effort to study the hurricane risk of our coastline and the relation of that risk to the insurance premiums homeowners pay on their properties. 

What he has discovered is that Beaufort County has the sixth highest rates in the nation for properties valued at $500,000 or more. For example, homeowners insurance for a $500,000 home in Gulf Port, Mississippi was recently quoted at $488 of annual premium. Gulf Port has had 17 hurricanes strike since 1851 and is projected to have another strike in 9 to 20 years. 

Compare that to a $1,400 annual premium for the same type property in Beaufort County. We have had 8 total hurricanes since 1851 and our area is projected to have another strike in 79 years. How could this be? Isn’t the State of South Carolina supposed to regulate insurance premiums? 

It’s been discovered that there is a 2004 state law that allows for a nearly “no questions asked” annual insurance rate increases of up to 7 percent per year. The first objective is to repeal that law in Columbia. The second objective is to raise the status of the currently vacant position of the head of the State’s division of insurance so that this individual will be able to analyze and challenge the complex models insurance companies use to justify their increases. 

The result of reforming our homeowner insurance situation will save Lowcountry residents money, allow more people to affordably purchase and maintain property in Beaufort County and will positively affect property values.