If the unprecedented number of real estate foreclosures didn’t hurt South Florida enough, then a hard-hitting hurricane season is sure to cause more than just property damage in the Sunshine State.

Some believe the financial damage will send Florida’s economy into an even deeper state of distress. Thousands of foreclosed condo properties currently sit abandoned in South Florida, and experts say these properties will be more susceptible to financial and property damage if the banks don’t protect them.

“If we get hit by another hurricane such as Wilma, it will not only be devastating, it will be catastrophic to the real estate market and Florida,” says Jack McCabe, a real estate analyst and CEO of Deerfield, Fla.-based McCabe Research and Consulting, who estimates a single abandoned condo property can face at a minimum $35 million in property damages. “Imagine the repair bill if these abandoned buildings plus other properties are hit,” he says.

On average, most Florida residents do not learn the category of a hurricane until a week before it hits. McCabe says that is not enough time to prepare these properties.

“Seven days to board up thousands of abandoned properties? I don’t think so. Some banks will shell out the money to protect their properties, other won’t. It may just be easier to bulldoze the building,” he says.

Peter Zalewski, CEO of Bal Harbour, Fla.-based Condo Vultures Realty, says people who live near these abandoned condo properties may have to fend for themselves. “It’s like a game of Russian roulette. We don’t know what will happen.”—