“We’ve got ourselves a little monster out there,” anchorman Jim Cantore warned, facing the camera in the Weather Channel’s newsroom on a sultry August weekend in 1992. At first, few in Florida were paying attention. “It’s very hard to get people to believe that there’s some danger from some element of nature that they haven’t experienced before,” a reporter told Cantore, as the channel played tape of tranquil beaches and neat vacation homes.
As the storm approached Florida, it gained the moniker Andrew, rapidly intensifying into a Category 5 hurricane as it exceeded wind speeds of 165 mph. Karen Clark watched updates on TV from her home in Boston with fascinated horror — and her career on the line.
Most insurance companies at that time assessed hurricane exposure in their portfolios by simply multiplying customer premiums by a rough factor of supposed risk, rather than tracking actual property replacement costs. “They were just very crude formulas,” she said.