The 2016 hurricane season began Wednesday with a new report that says 100,068 homes in South Mississippi have some risk of damage from storm surge if a hurricane hits the Coast.
Of those homes in the Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula metropolitan area, 9,253 are in the "extreme" risk zone, according to CoreLogic, a financial and property data and analytics firm. That risk zone means the homes would be affected by all hurricane category levels.
Gerard Maher, with Century 21 Diamond Properties and president of the Gulf Coast Association of Realtors, disputes those numbers. Many of the homes along the Coast haven't rebuilt in the years since Hurricane Katrina, he said, and those that were rebuilt are above the base flood elevations.
Maher said people returning to be near the water are building with great care, and he estimates only about 1,000 homes are at the highest risk.
Following Hurricane Katrina, many people moved north of Interstate 10 to get away from the storm surge and the swell in insurance premiums, he said. In the past 18 months, he's seen some people getting more comfortable and moving back south of the interstate.
"The water is always going to be an attraction," he said.
He'd like to see more commercial building on the waterfront, as is happening in Bay St. Louis since the harbor was built.
"Bay St. Louis' Old Town is doing wonderful," he said. There's more people and more buyers, which he said is making the homes in that area in high demand.
Waveland hasn't had the same success, he said.
If the CoreLogic numbers are correct, many property owners on the Coast won't be covered if another storm hits with the strength of Katrina.
About 67,000 homes in the state are covered by The National Flood Insurance Program, according to FEMA, with 42,000 of those in the three counties in South Mississippi. That would leave more than half of the 100,000 homes in the CoreLogic report without flood insurance.
The report says more than 6.8 million homes in the U.S. are at risk of damage from hurricane storm surge, with a total reconstruction cost value of more than $1.5 trillion. The Atlantic coast has 3.9 million homes at risk of storm surge, and the Gulf Coast has 2.9 million homes at risk with $592 billion in potential exposure to total destruction damage.
"Despite the overall increases in risk, we were glad to see that the number and value of homes in the most extreme, and dangerous, category actually declined," said Tom Jeffery, senior hazard risk scientist for CoreLogic.