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When Irma turned west 'you could hear a sigh of relief,' Florida insurer says

  • Heritage Insurance expects an estimated loss of $200 million to $300 million in Florida thanks to Hurricane Irma, CEO Bruce Lucas told CNBC.
  • That's a far cry from the billion-dollar price tag had the storm taken a different course, he said.
  • Heritage Insurance soared over 21 percent on Monday.

Heritage Insurance expects an estimated loss of about $200 million to $300 million in Florida thanks to Hurricane Irma, a far cry from the expected billion-dollar price tag had the storm gone in another direction, the company's CEO told CNBC on Monday.

"Had this even gone from Miami-Dade County in southeast Florida up the east coast, it was probably a billion plus for Heritage. That's where the high concentrated policy counts are, where the population lives," Bruce Lucas said in an interview with "Closing Bell."

"So when Irma took a turn to the west and went up the west side of the coast, you could hear a sigh of relief in the Florida market."

On Monday, insurance companies rallied after initial reports from Florida revealed less damage than expected. Heritage Insurance led the way, soaring over 21 percent.

Shares of home insurers tied to the Florida market plunged last week as investors feared historic damage from Irma. The Category 5 storm tore through the Caribbean and made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm Sunday morning.

Irma, now downgraded to a tropical storm, ripped roofs off homes and caused flooding and power outages across the state.

FBR Capital Markets insurance analyst Rand Binner told CNBC the insured losses from the hurricane were likely to total between $10 billion and $30 billion. The figure is for private insurance losses in Florida and the Caribbean but does not count losses from the National Flood Program.

"Those are very big numbers, but that's well off the worst-case scenario the market was discounting last week," Binner said on "Squawk Box" earlier Monday.

Irma headed north on Monday, flooding cities including Charleston, South Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida.

— CNBC's Michael Sheetz, Berkeley Lovelace and Angelica LaVito contributed to this report.