Frances' Insured Loss $2B-$10B

Hurricanes Charley and Frances dealt the Florida economy a one-two punch, ravaging citrus groves and grounding the state's most important industry to a halt by keeping tourists away from sandy beaches and theme parks.

State officials and executives at the Insurance Information Institute (search), an industry group, said it was too early to guess how much damage Frances wreaked on Florida. But economists said Sunday that Florida's economy should withstand the buffeting in the long term.

"In terms of the long haul, I don't think it's going to depress Florida," said David Denslow, a University of Florida economist.

Risk Management Solutions (search), a Newark, Calif.-based risk-modeling company, estimated the insured losses at between $2 billion and $10 billion.

"It's a broad range, but it reflects the uncertainty as the storm progresses," said Kyle Beatty, a meteorologist at RMS.

The damage from Frances comes on top of the estimated $7.4 billion in insured losses from Charley, which struck Aug. 13.

Gov. Jeb Bush (search) promised a quick economic recovery. "A combination of things have occurred that will set us back for a little bit," Bush said Sunday. "We'll rebound."

Of Florida's biggest economic sectors, the state's agriculture industry, which has $6.4 billion in cash receipts, stands to be hurt the most, economists said.

Hurricane Charley caused an estimated loss of about 20 percent, or between $150 million and $180 million, to next year's citrus crop when it tore through southwest Florida last month. Frances made landfall in the Indian River Citrus District along the Atlantic Coast, where three-quarters of Florida's grapefruit is grown.

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said he expected losses to the state's citrus and foliage industries from Frances to be as much as the damage from Charley, placing the total agriculture loss from the two hurricanes at an estimated $300 million. Foliage and greenhouse products recently replaced citrus as the state's top cash crop.

"There has been a lot of foliage loss and fruit off the tree. The abundant rainfall is going to cause a lot of problems," Bronson said.

President Bush planned to seek $225 million in disaster assistance to help the state's citrus growers recover from Charley and more was expected to be requested for damage from Frances.

The long-term economic impact on Florida's largest industry -- the $50 billion tourism sector -- likely will be minimal, mainly from damaged hotels along Florida's coastal midsection. The short-term impact came from lost business over the busy Labor Day weekend.

The Fort Lauderdale area had an estimated $6 million in lost business from mandatory business closings. Orlando's three major theme park resorts -- Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Sea World Orlando -- lost a combined estimated $41 million from having to close for two days over a holiday weekend. The theme parks planned to reopen Monday.

The state's construction industry, which employs about 450,000 workers, should get a boost from the hurricanes, especially southwest Florida, where structural damage from Charley was severe.