When Hurricane Wilma headed toward the southeast coast of Florida with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour, there was a sense of disbelief and weariness among policyholders, insurance company officials, claim adjusters, and state officials.

After withstanding the damage from four major storms in 2004, and three large storms in 2005, another hurricane's making landfall in the state appeared beyond all probability. As Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman Rudy Garcia (R-Hialeah) remarked at a recent committee meeting, "No one could have imagined eight storms in two years."

That sense of disbelief, however, was quickly dispelled by the reality that, out of the eight storms, Wilma was poised to be the most destructive. Similar to the experience of Louisiana in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Wilma initially struck Florida, there was a sense that the state had dodged a bullet. Instead of coming ashore in the highly developed coastal cities of Fort Myers or Naples, Wilma made landfall on the eastern edge of the Florida Everglades. The problem was that the marshy swamplands of the Everglades provided no geographic features that would significantly diminish the hurricane's fury. As a result, Wilma retained most of its strength as it crossed the mainland and into Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, which have the state's largest concentration of population and property exposure.

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