Signs point to the emergence of a promising new trend -- less-expensive wind coverage for coastal property owners.
As many as 25 companies have begun offering wind coverage in the past few years here in Beaufort County. The reasons vary from company to company. Some have expanded their coverage area to include the interior of the state, allowing them to spread out their exposure and to write policies along the coast for the first time. Others have had a change in thinking and are now convinced that Beaufort County will continue to be hit by far fewer hurricanes than other spots along the Southeastern coast.
The result has been a nearly 25 percent drop in the number of Beaufort County property owners in the state's wind pool, a state-chartered insurer of last resort for those who can't get coverage in the private market.
Here's hoping it's the start of a positive trend. The increase in the number of companies should result in increased competition and lower rates for all.
And other changes are on the way that should also aid the effort. A state bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, and passed this spring, will require the S.C. Department of Insurance to create a new model on which insurance rates are based to better reflect South Carolina's hurricane risk.
Some Beaufort County homeowners, business owners and lawmakers have argued that the current rates are pricey because insurance companies over-estimate the likelihood of the area being hit by a hurricane. The current model doesn't take into account the area's concave coastline and location relative to the Gulf Stream that help spare it from most direct hits from major storms.
The new model will take South Carolina-specific data into account. Beaufort County has had eight hurricane strikes in the past 120 years. Only one of them, Hurricane Gracie in 1960, was classified as a major storm when it made landfall.
While important changes are happening on the state level, consumers have work they need to do too. Increasingly, they can and should comparison shop for insurance coverage. The newly-passed bill requires the state insurance department to expand its website to offer a more comprehensive guide to help residents identify companies offering coverage and to compare their rates. Residents should take advantage of the improvements by visiting the department's website, www.doi.sc.gov and clicking on "Market Assistance."
The risk of inclement weather -- and the accompanying higher insurance rates -- are a fact of life in coastal South Carolina. But it isn't too much to ask that those rates be pegged to scientific data about the actual likelihood of future storms hitting Beaufort County. We're on our way to achieving that.