By my count, all but one Republican member from Georgia of the U.S. House voted against Hurricane Sandy aid this evening. Jack Kingston was the lone exception, but he is listed as not voting.
So what happens if we have more or less the same delegation in Washington when a significant hurricane with a strong storm surge hits the Georgia coast?
It’s going to happen eventually. As I wrote about in 2011, no major hurricanes — defined as category 3 to 5 — made landfall on the Georgia coast in the 20th century, but there were three in the latter half of the 19th century. Also in 2011, The Weather Channel dubbed Savannah the 4th most overdue city in the country to get hit by a hurricane. The only other city on the East Coast ahead of us on that list was New York City.
There seem to be some geographical reasons for Georgia’s charmed 20th century, but the luck isn’t going to hold out forever. Especially since the Hurricane Floyd evacuation was a nightmare, far too many Chatham County residents are likely to stay put next time there’s a serious threat. In a category 2 hurricane, the islands — Tybee, Wilmington, Whitemarsh, etc. — would get significant flooding and racing waters. In a category 4 or 5 hurricane, the vast majority of the county would be inundated.
And that’s just Chatham County. Given the low-lying counties along Georgia’s coast, a bad storm with a strong surge could devastate a large area.
Given a state budget in the range of $20 billion, there’s simply no way either state or local funding could lead the coast to a speedy recovery. The sticking point regarding the Sandy vote tonight seems to have been a desire to make sure there are budget cuts elsewhere to compensate for the federal aid to affected states. Will our representatives similarly demand that the rest of the nation make sacrifices so that we can receive aid when that storm hits?