Floridians can still call them by name, like shirt-tail relatives who insist on visiting too often and staying too long: Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne. Week after week, wave upon wave, the hurricanes pummeled the Sunshine State, killing more than 100 and leaving behind some $20 billion in insured damages. By some accounts, the unprecedented series of storms damaged one of every three houses in the state, and thousands of Floridians were still homeless at year's end.
State and federal officials won rave reviews for their quick response to the disaster. Some $13 billion in federal aid helped cover everything from temporary housing to unemployment benefits-and may have helped President Bush to an easy victory in the must-win state. But inland, flood-damage victims had a harder time winning recognition and help.
For many residents, nothing was easy about the storms' aftermath. Building contractors, overwhelmed by demand for their services, predicted they would still be repairing hurricane damage well into 2006. And two months after the last of the storms made landfall on Sept. 25, nearly half of all policyholders who filed claims still had not received their final checks from their insurance companies.
Meanwhile, the political fallout from the storms could last as long as the physical rebuilding. Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) promised to introduce legislation next year creating a taxpayer-supported, $100 billion cleanup fund for future natural disasters. Critics said that would force Middle America to underwrite the lifestyle of those who choose to live in risky places like Florida and California.