The severity of hurricanes has increased significantly in the past decade compared to trends of the previous century. Even if we manage to cut our global emissions enough to curtail severe climate change, studies predict that we are likely to see more than a 50% increase in category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the 21st century.
These hurricanes will continue to cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.
We must take steps toward permanent adaptation to this changing climate to minimize the repeated cycle of these hurricanes causing untold suffering and billions of dollars in damage, only to see these communities be rebuilt to be hit by another hurricane.
We must invest in innovative solutions for rebuilding our communities that reside in high risk flood and hurricane zones. We can turn to countries like the Netherlands, who invested $500 million over 6 years (compare this to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans which lost $161 billion in a matter of days) to build a massive flood gate that permanently protects all of the Dutch homes that reside below sea level.
We can also look closer to home, at Hoboken, New Jersey. After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the city initiated a major storm resiliency effort to rebuild its parks, sewer systems, pipes, and gardens to withstand massive floods. Hoboken lost over $1 billion in Hurricane Sandy. As a result, it is spending $140 million alongside $230 million in federal aid to rebuild its city in a way that will prevent it from losing the same amount in future inevitable disasters.
Concurrently, we must reevaluate FEMA’s policies, and our National Flood Insurance Plan.
FEMA’s out-of date flood zone map needs to be updated to reflect the true 41 million homes that are at high risk for catastrophic flooding (not the 13 million it currently states). The Agency’s prevention policy in response to floods and hurricanes is to rebuild homes and buildings that are “more resistant to flood damage.” FEMA does not currently have a policy that prevents them from rebuilding homes located in high risk areas. As a result, several homes have received more federal aid to rebuild their homes than what the home is actually worth. For example, the same home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been rebuilt 40 times, costing the government $428,379 even though the home is only worth $55,921.
Our National Flood Insurance Plan was designed to force the purchase of flood insurance for high-risk areas, thus increasing the cost of living there and causing people to move to safer areas. Unfortunately, people have continued for 50 years to live, build, and rebuild their homes in high risk flood zones. As a result, private insurance companies are in a position to make money when major natural disasters hit, leaving the NFIP over $25 billion in debt.
Our federal agencies and plans that are designed to help those who are affected by hurricanes and floods must take a stricter line on rebuilding in areas that are likely to be damaged again. These organizations should absolutely help people after a natural disaster, but they should also ensure that we’re not throwing good money after bad, and relocate people as needed after disasters to ensure that they don’t end up in the same position again.
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Problems to be Solved
- The Federal government is wasting billions of dollars rebuilding homes and buildings that are at high risk of being destroyed by flooding.
- FEMA’s natural disaster response practices do not take enough preventive measures for future likely disasters.
Investments in flood prevention solutions that cost hundreds of millions can prevent us from annually losing tens of billions in catastrophic hurricanes. This funding will go towards redesigning cities at high risk of damage. By upgrading our coastlines to withstand incoming disasters from the sea, our entire country will be better protected.
- Invest millions of dollars in flood prevention efforts that will save us billions of dollars in damages long-term
- Save taxpayer dollars by developing natural disaster practices that are more preventative than responsive
As President, I will...
- Invest $25 billion over 10 years in helping communities that are likely to be impacted by repeated hurricane and flood damage to make their communities more disaster-resistant through pre-disaster mitigation grants.
- Reevaluate the way FEMA and the NFIP determine where structures can be rebuilt, taking a stricter stance against rebuilding in danger zones.