Hurricane Frances may double recovery costs

Hurricane Frances may have almost doubled the estimated recovery cost for Florida as relief officials gear up to deal with the devastation of two hurricanes striking the same state within three weeks.

As the first rays of sunlight in days break out across the Sunshine State, hard-hit residents are beginning the grim task of assessing damage - while drying out rain-soaked carpets, furniture, and clothing. They are also facing long lines for necessities such as food, water, ice, and gasoline, reports Christian Science Monitor.

According to the Forbes, by most counts, the hurricane that moved through Florida over the weekend caused anywhere from $2 billion to $10 billion in damages, according to three major catastrophe modeling firms. Though an official account has yet to be tallied, analysts are saying it is well below the worst-case expectations many were fearing from a storm that at one point was the size of Texas.

So, as Floridians dug out from underneath the destruction left in Frances' wake, investors began to move back into shares of property and casualty companies. The Standard & Poor's Insurance Index moved higher by 3.15 points, or 1 percent, to 322.26.

"Hurricane Frances will probably be less destructive than Hurricane Charley, which hit Florida only three weeks ago and caused insured damage of about $7 billion," said Jay Gelb, an analyst with Prudential Equity Group. "The insured damage does not appear to be as high as initially feared."

"Frances was not helpful," said Rick McAllister, president of the Florida Retail Federation, a trade group of 10,000 members. "But it was not devastating."

McAllister said many Florida retailers were still unable to operate because of power outages, which not only kept shops closed but also frequently prevented staff from reaching their workplaces.

"Some business has been lost forever," he added.

Retail giant Federated Department Stores Inc. said lost sales at its Burdines-Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores in Florida from Hurricane Frances could total about $20 million.

Some retailers, such as building-materials suppliers, were seeing pickups in business, McAllister said, informs Reuters.

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