MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As residents of New York and New Jersey struggle to recover from Hurricane Sandy’s deadly trip through the Northeast, it may be a while before the total dollar loss is known.

The financial impact from the storm if forecast to hit insurance customers here and across the country. Most of the big storm’s damage came from flooding and is expected to hit the national flood insurance program hard. It’s a program that’s already facing billion dollar deficits.

It’s all the other damage to private homes and businesses, however, which some insurance industry insiders say could end up raising homeowners’ insurance bills nationwide.

Homeowners are still struggling to recover:

Despite its massive size before it made landfall Hurricane Sandy is not expected to be one of the costliest storms in recent history. Hurricane Katrina, with $108 billion in damage, is expected to remain in the top spot followed by Hurricane Ike at $29.5 billion and Hurricane Andrew at $26.5 billion. Early estimates forecast Hurricane Sandy’s damage to possibly approach $20 billion.

Most of the big insurance companies that will pay out claims are not in Florida anymore. They pulled out of the state years ago. Florida’s biggest insurer is Citizens whose rates are also expected to increase.

South Dade homeowner Joe Machado said he’s noticed whenever the insurance industry suffers any major loss, his Citizens bill go up as well.

“It’s a fact of life. We’re paying higher rates after Andrew. Whenever something goes wrong and the insurance companies pay, we pay,” said Machado.

That’s because re-insurance costs for the insurance industry usually go up across the board and it’s a growing national problem, according to industry insider Gayle Bainbridge.

“I think it will be very hard for lawmakers to ignore, this is a national problem and not just Florida. I see rates rising with fewer options down here and affordable coverage even more scarce,” said Bainbridge.

The only ‘economic rainbow’ at the end of the storm may be the billions of dollars from private insurance and federal disaster aid that will soon start pouring into the Northeast. It’s expected to fuel thousands of new jobs and years of cleaning up and rebuilding to fix what Sandy’s massive waves and winds tore down in just a few hours.


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