PREPARE – for extreme weather

The following is an excerpt from a piece that originally appeared on The Hill on October 29, the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. It was wirtten by Reps. Matt Cartwrit and Leonard Lance. Click the link to read the full piece.

Superstorm Sandy made landfall on the East Coast three years ago today, bringing 80-mph winds, an eight foot storm surge, and colossal flooding to the mid-Atlantic region.  In Pennsylvania, five people were killed, hundreds forced to seek shelter, and hundreds of thousands left without electricity for weeks in some areas.  Pennsylvania was hit hard, but New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of the storm, which caused the death of 162 Americans and approximately $70 billion in property damage and economic losses.  Damage from Sandy can still be felt today, while we remain vulnerable to future extreme weather events.

Altogether, in the last four years the president issued 253 major disaster declarations, of which 42 inflicted at least $1 billion damage, and 1,286 people were killed.  The total cost: $227 billion in economic losses across 44 states.  Any recitation of our nation’s extreme weather losses would be inadequate without at least mentioning the most expensive weather related disaster in U.S. history: Hurricane Katrina in 2005 killed over 1,200 people and caused over $100 billion in damage.  Events like Katrina and Sandy highlight the dire need for an efficient and effective federal strategy to deal with extreme weather.
While every state is forced to cope with the effects of extreme weather, the federal government struggles to prepare for future events.&nnbsp; The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified extreme weather as a “High Risk” area in 2013 and 2015, specifically finding that our country lacks a national disaster preparedness and resilience strategy, and that this lack of preparation leaves American taxpayers on the hook with essentially unlimited liability.

GAO defines resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.”  In particular, one easy and no-cost resilience-enhancing action would be greater coordination and communication between the various federal, state, and local government actors.  Currently, federal agencies have a poor record of sharing weather data, best practices, and other critical information.  Indeed, preparing for extreme weather events requires complex interagency and intergovernmental efforts to define goals and priorities, establish costs and benefits, and make sure that roles and responsibilities between agencies are clearly delineated.  What we need is legislation to effectuate these reforms.

Read the full text here.