Coastal homeowners stagger under insurance costs

 GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) -- Stan Virden moved into his 2,400-square-foot house overlooking a rock-lined canal in 1996 and paid less than $1,000 a year for homeowners insurance.

   Now the 80-year-old Navy captain is considering moving to Atlanta to be near family, but he says potential buyers for the house are being scared off by the annual premium, which has skyrocketed to $5,000.

   From Cape Cod to Texas, rates for coverage against tropical storms have risen sharply since 2003, financially pinching homeowners and sparking outrage as insurance companies report profits that are higher in many coastal areas than inland for homeowners insurance.

   Forecasters say 17 to 20 named storms are projected this Atlantic hurricane season. The season starts officially Saturday and runs through Nov. 30.


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