Hurricane Florence slammed into North Carolina on Friday and stalled over the weekend. At the time this is written — Monday morning — damage assessments have not been completed.
The storm brought huge amounts of rain and flooding everywhere. From an insured and uninsured perspective, damages will be very, very high.
The question now is how well the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will handle the disastrous consequences of the hurricane. It didn’t get very good grades from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for how it handled last year’s major hurricanes and the wildfires that decimated parts of the nation.
The report said back-to-back hurricanes and catastrophic wildfires in California overwhelmed federal disaster responders last year. It forced FEMA to use — in some cases — uncertified workers in key roles. When Hurricane Harvey hit, FEMA was 30% understaffed and by the time Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the challenges were overwhelming.
A GAO official noted, “These events came at a time when FEMA was already supporting 692 federally declared disasters and tested the nation’s ability to respond and recover from multiple concurrent disasters.”
Experts will tell you the biggest percentage of damage from any hurricane comes from the storm surge and the flooding caused by torrents of rain. Rob Moore of the Natural Resources Defense Council — an environmental group that wants safer communities — said that leads us to Congress and the failure to reform and renew the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
“They have not dealt with the gorilla in the room which is proactively addressing these types of disasters for the future. Too much of the US’s response to natural disaster is completely reactionary, we throw a bunch of money after it happens,” he said.
Moore and his group think it would cost the U.S. government less to require those whose homes have been damaged, or destroyed and rebuilt multiple times to relocate. It is one of the reforms the group wants Congress to adopt.
The 21st Century Flood Reform Act (H.R. 2874) does some of that. Or at least it is a good start. The bill limits coverage in the future and the discounts for high-risk properties. It modifies premiums and the surcharges paid by policyholders and expands the ability of private insurers to sell flood insurance.
The bill passed the House and is still sitting in the Senate.
Source links: Bloomberg, PIA National, The Washington Post, Insurance Business America