Voices: The U.S. is a (natural) disaster, but why?

Category:  Opinions
Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 at 1:03 PM

Hurricane Harvey has wreaked havoc along the coast of Texas with more than 30,000 people in Houston seeking temporary shelter, now, on the west coast L.A. citizens are being evacuated due to the largest brush fire in the area to date. The United States truly is in a state of emergency and this is only the beginning.

Natural disasters are immensely expensive, totaling $528 billion of damage from 1981-1990 worldwide and that number has nearly doubled to $1.2 trillion from 2001-2010. This includes Hurricane Katrina, that came in at a total of $120 billion in damage sustained to areas of coastal Louisiana in 2005.

Now, here we are 12 years later experiencing what is now an even worse event, only now it is in the Houston area, stretching from Corpus Christi to Beaumont where upwards of 50 inches of rain have made landfall in a single day.

Hurricane Harvey, initially estimated to cost around $50 billion, is now expected to total in at anywhere between $150-$180 billion, making it the most expensive disaster to ravage the Gulf Coast region of the United States in the last 20 years.

So, the big question here is why are these disasters seemingly getting so much worse?

Well the answer to that has two parts, one being an increase in erratic weather caused by shifts in water levels due to climate change, and the other is the massive increase in population seen in these areas.

Florida is a prime example, as it has seen an increase from only 2.8 million people in 1950 to 18.8 million in 2010, which comes out to a whopping 570 percent increase. Simply put, the more people per square mile, the higher the costs of damage.

Houston is the 4th most populated U.S. city, yet it is only 80 feet above sea level, which places it in a prime location for flooding due to highly unpredictable tropical storms, or any heavy rainfall for that matter.

As of Sept. 4, 66 fatalities have been confirmed, all of which were caused by the hurricane, and we are already expecting Hurricane Irma to make landfall in Florida and Puerto Rico by the end of the week.

When looking at Los Angeles on the other hand, it seems to be merely a problem of too little too late, which has led to the loss of nearly 6,000 acres of brush and forest, three homes, and one partially damaged all in the Burbank, California area.

With a force of nearly 1,000 firefighters, these men and women still struggled to hold back nature’s wrath, leading to California descending into a state of emergency as its citizens are being relocated away from the blaze.

As of 9:30 p.m. (ET), the fire was 25 percent contained with the help of a force of nine helicopters and 206 fire engines.

With all these incidents, you would figure that insurance has quite a hand in the aftermath of these tragedies, and it does, especially when it comes to wildfires that is.

Most wildfires are covered by insurance as a “covered peril”, according to Michael Barry of the Insurance Information Institute, however flooding due to hurricanes is much different.

Government aid will undoubtedly come to these people suffering from lost property and lost life, but not in an amount that will cover everything lost.

People can opt into flood insurance via the federally run National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), with coverage up to $350,000 and deductibles as low as $500, but most often don’t, with only 5.3 million policyholders across the country as of 2011.

The cost is relatively low, on average $50 per month, but most people think it’s not worth it, even with the increased frequency of category 4 hurricanes hitting the same places repeatedly with predictably awful results.

All in all, it seems as if nobody heeds natures’ warnings and they seemingly continue to live in harm’s way and then beating their chests screaming “why me”, when they should be screaming “why do I live here?”

These storms are showing evidence of a direct correlation to record low sea ice, which has subsequently caused higher sea levels leading to the increased chances of flash flooding in low areas.

If this trend continues, regardless of the strength of the storms, of which they will only get worse, we will see ever increasing damage from the flooding, as populations in these areas continue to grow regardless of the dangers of the locations.

Humans hate change and apparently we also hate preparing for the worse even when we know it’s coming.

Roman Sabella is the voices editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com. 

Tags: opinion

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