Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on Sandy and storm safety:

August 31

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on Sandy and storm safety:

The report released in August by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force would sound very familiar to any Southeast Louisiana resident who picks it up. The opening letter from task force chairman Shaun Donovan, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, could be describing the post-Katrina aftermath here in 2005:

“Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast with incredible power and fury, wreaking havoc in communities across the region. Entire neighborhoods were flooded. Families lost their homes. Businesses were destroyed. Infrastructure was torn apart.”

The difference is that flooding here was due to levee breaches, and there it was from surge that swamped coastal communities and pushed a wall of water inland. Thankfully, far fewer people died last October in New York and New Jersey than did in Katrina.

But most of those who died in Sandy drowned and many of the victims were elderly, as in Katrina. ...

In 2012, according to the report, 11 different disasters across the Unites States had losses exceeding $1 billion each. That list would include Hurricane Isaac.

According to Mr. Donovan, every $1 spent on hazard mitigation saves “at least $4 in avoided costs if a disaster strikes again.” So, helping communities rebuild to higher standards is in the government’s interest as well as residents’.

That is an argument for the federal government to put more money into those investments. ...

Officials from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and private lenders are working on a unified approach. If they come up with a sensible policy, rebuilding could be easier for storm victims in the future.

The Sandy task force also highlighted the inability for many residents in coastal New Jersey and New York to afford flood insurance under new rules Congress approved last year. As in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast, some insurance policies are about to skyrocket to absurd levels unless FEMA or Congress intervenes.

Some sort of relief on flood insurance is essential. Thousands of residents in Southeast Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast rebuilt after Katrina with the approval of FEMA, and the rules are changing after the fact.

As the task force report shows, all of us who live along the coast face similar threats and challenges. If the Sandy task force pushes federal agencies and Congress to address those needs, we could all benefit.

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