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Since the roaring '20s, South Florida has been a playground for the rich, famous, and freezing. But the area has been inhabited for at least 10 centuries, making its stereotypical blue hairs seem downright young. Par for the course, South Florida's history is an illustrious and rich one.

The Land & Its People

Because the population of South Florida is largely confined to a strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades, the Miami Urbanized Area (that is, the area of contiguous urban development) is about 110 miles long (north to south), but never more than 20 miles wide, and in some areas only 5 miles wide (east to west). South Florida is longer than any other urbanized area in the United States except for the New York metropolitan area. It was the eighth most densely populated urbanized area in the United States in the 2000 Census. As of the 2000 Census, the urbanized area had a land area of 1,116 square miles, with a population of 4,919,036, for a population density of 4,407.4 per square mile. Miami and Hialeah (the second largest city in the metropolitan area) had population densities of more than 10,000 per square mile. The Miami Urbanized Area was the fifth largest urbanized area in the United States in the 2000 Census, ahead of the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas, Urbanized Area.

In 2006, the area, including Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, had an estimated 5,463,857 persons, of which 1,671,398 live in unincorporated areas. Considering that the area has an urban population of 4,919,036, only 544,821 residents live outside of the urban area, meaning that at least 1,126,577 persons live in urban unincorporated areas, but the number is actually higher. Palm Beach County was added to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area for the first time in 2000, giving it a considerable boost in population and in ranking among U.S. metropolitan areas.

Fast forward to 2009, however, and the only boost Florida experienced was one in the amount of foreclosures, coming in second only to California. As a result of the abysmal economy, loss of jobs, and loss of homes, for the first time in over 60 years, the state experienced a net loss of approximately 58,000 people. In fact, in 2009 more people moved out of Florida than moved in. According to Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the state, once the fifth cheapest state to live in, had become the 14th most expensive. Some optimists predict a positive trend for long-term growth in the state. The job forecast, however, is expected, according to economists, to remain dismal until 2012.

As we wait for the economy to rebound, we realize there are other pressing issues to be dealt with. Scientists have observed changes in Florida consistent with the early effects of global warming: retreating and eroding shorelines, dying coral reefs, saltwater intrusion into inland freshwater aquifers, an upswing in forest fires, and warmer air and sea-surface temperatures. As glaciers melt and warming waters expand, sea levels will rise anywhere from 8 inches to 2 1/2 feet over the next century. In Florida, seawater will advance inland as much as 400 feet in low-lying areas, flooding shoreline homes and hotels, limiting future development, and eroding the state's beloved beaches. People aren't kidding when they say that one day, Florida will be underwater.

On a more positive note, some say this perceived global warming threat has been greatly exaggerated. Though preliminary research raised concerns that warmer ocean temperatures would lead to more frequent hurricanes, scientists now discount this theory. Nevertheless, global warming may increase hurricanes' maximum intensity, which will serve to exacerbate a natural cyclical trend toward more severe storms -- a trend likely to persist for the next 25 to 40 years.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.