Two months into the 2005 hurricane season, the US has not been as badly affected by storms than in previous years. Yet insurance companies are still insisting that homeowners in hurricane-prone areas should pay larger premiums.

Following the category four storms that were raged on Florida by hurricane Dennis last week, hurricane Emily, the fifth tropical storm of the young season, devastated parts of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Monday before finally dissolving into a weaker tropical storm.

So far this year, US states have suffered far less damage from storms than in previous years. Florida’s State Farm Insurance, for example, received 11,214 insurance claims in the aftermath of Dennis this year. In 2004, however, just four hurricanes produced 348,629 insurance claims – equivalent to 87,157 claims per storm.

Despite this year’s relative calm, insurance bills for storm-prone areas are likely to go up, according to a report by the Associated Press. Southern states such as Florida, which saw half of all insured hurricane losses in the 20th century, would bear the brunt of any rates increase.

Tensions are growing between homeowners and insurers, says AP. Last year’s devastating hurricane season, which caused $22 billion in insured wind damage alone in the US, has left insurance companies fearing mass destruction on the scale of 1992’s hurricane Andrew, which, in causing $26.5 billion of damage in Louisiana and southern Florida, was the most destructive US hurricane on record.

Since the last hurricane season, insurers in Florida have apparently requested state-wide rate increases of between 5% and 30% .

Homeowners and consumer advocates disagree with the rates hike, contending that sharp insurance rate increases since 1992 are more than enough to cover any potential damage.

Speaking on behalf of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, director Bob Hunter reprimanded any further rate increases.

However, Bob Hartwig, chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute said that any past increases were not sufficient completely to cover damage costs.