Florida prepares for hurricane season

Hurricane season kicks off June 1

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Hurricane Season begins in two weeks, and even though it's been seven years since a hurricane hit the Sunshine State, state officials are gearing up for what's expected to be a busy hurricane season.

June 1 kicks off hurricane season. State officials are now preparing for what experts are calling a potentially busy year.

"For this season, I think we're as prepared as we can be and we'll just have to see what happens," said Jack Nicholson, executive director of Hurricane Disaster Fund.

Florida's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is a state program designed to reimburse insurance companies after a massive storm. Without a hurricane in recent years, the fund has been able to stockpile cash to pay claims.

"If you look at the Cat Fund historically, we're in the best position we've been in," said Nicholson.

Even though there's plenty of cash now, a major storm could wipe out the surplus in a heat beat.

"It would take a very large event, like a 1-in-20 year event, to wipe out our cash balances," said Nicholson.

Supplying funding after a hurricane isn't the only thing for which the state is preparing. It's also making sure people can eat. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) practiced responding to a disaster, providing victims with emergency food supplies.

"We bring in people from all across the state," said Suzanne Vitale, Deputy Secretary of DCF.

Wilma was the last major hurricane to hit Florida and that was in 2005. Since Wilma, the ways to apply for assistance have changed dramatically for the better.

"In 2005, there were long lines and if anyway was still around when Wilma happened, it was a very paper intensive process," said Vitale.

The department now enrolls people in need online, allowing them to get benefits a couple of days after they apply, instead of waiting weeks like years past.

The Cat Fund covers insurance company losses greater than $7 billion in an effort to keep them from going broke.

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