Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Life in Paradise; Life in a Hurricane Zone

Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30. And in a season that includes -- so far --10 named tropical storms or hurricanes, I periodically wonder: Why did I voluntarily evacuate to a hurricane zone in 1993? I love my life in Miami. I love the ocean view from my apartment, but I was naive when I crunched the relocation numbers. I did not factor in hidden storm costs.

The move -- from Manhattan to Miami -- was prompted by the need to find affordable housing in an urban setting with a warm climate. The cost of a rental apartment, childcare and other basics in Manhattan exceeded my salary. In contrast, Miami Beach --prior to the recent spike in residential real estate -- seemed like an affordable option in a beachfront paradise.

The Lures:

*Cheap rent or low-cost housing
*Affordable childcare
*Competitive salaries

What's more, we save a fortune on clothing because our local climate is mostly sunny and warm. My kids only need a one-season wardrobe, with a few jackets and sweaters for cold snaps in the winter.

But there are hidden costs that I failed to include in the initial calculations. For example, regional and seasonal emergencies can be dangerous and expensive. Weather-related disasters have had the following impact on my family:

  • Destroyed engine: We lost one car on a flooded street. The engine was soaked and the insurance company declared the car a total loss. Although the insurance policy covered the auto loss, we did not receive dollar-for-dollar replacement value for the vehicle. There were also assorted out-of-pocket expenses related to the destroyed vehicle.
  • Damp wardrobe: Water damage and mold in our closets have trashed suits, shoes, hats and other garments.
  • Damaged furniture: During one storm, our apartment was flooded, which lead to the damage of some household items.
  • Emergency supplies: Every year, we spend between $100 to $300 on hurricane supplies, which include batteries, ice, camping supplies, bottled water and plywood.
  • Intangible costs: We have lived for short periods without water and electricity. But our total losses, thank goodness, have been small. More importantly, we have been safe. My family has been fortunate. But storm threats --with related fears about safety and security -- have exacted emotional costs.

This post, however, is not meant to be a whine. I live a life of gratitude in Miami. And there are random acts of nature in other parts of the country, including floods, wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes. And I've learned to be grateful for personal safety (and for the safety of others!) and to consider regional weather patterns and terrain when making relocation decisions.


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Fred Beiderbecke said...

I am a little north of you in West Palm. Our losses have mainly been covered by homeowners, but the intangibles, fuel for the generator, lost food, the stocking up on canned goods and water are expensive.

Now we have Ike to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sharon,

It is so true, about the "hidden costs" of living here. I am actually on my way to the store to pick up some extra bread,and reminded my hubby to check the generator and propane tanks for the bbq just in case Ike comes our way. And I too have had a flooded car (Adventura Mall parking lot when I worked there), a flooded living room(Irene), my roof replaced and the big, beautiful trees that were in front of my house destroyed by Wilma, which cannot be replace.

But, I can't complain. I have friends who live in other parts of the country who wake up to tornado sirens and spend the rest of the night sleeping in the hallway. Other friends who's children have been knocked out of bed by an earthquake. At least we know what is coming and how bad and can make the choice to leave or protect ourselves. And yes, the stress can be a bit much, but I wouldn't trade it for the cold and snow.

Good luck if we do this storm. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Debbie :)