What would happen in terms of federal aid when a hurricane hits the Georgia coast?

January 15, 2013 23:06 pm

by Bill Dawers · 61 comments

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?

Harry January 16, 2013 at 12:37 am

This is a nation of freeloaders.

The Last Democrat in Georgia January 16, 2013 at 1:27 am

The Georgia Coast is in a red state so it would probably be good.

Though, the whole thing over emergency aid to areas affected by Hurricane Sandy was not necessarily over just attempting to force budget cuts in other areas as much as it was over trying to prevent excessive amounts of needless pork spending, mostly through wildly-unrelated earmarks, from being unnecessarily tacked onto the bill.

I don’t know if the Republicans were necessarily successful in forcing cuts in other areas of the Federal Budget (I assume that they probably were not that successful), but it appears that they were at least successful in cutting out about $30 BILLION in needless pork spending as a bill somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 billion was passed, down from the original pork-overloaded bill of $80 billion.

Bill Dawers January 16, 2013 at 9:00 am

They may have been successful in reducing the size of the bill, but Ga. Republicans and most other Republicans not from the Northeast still voted against it. The sticking point was the lack of offsetting cuts elsewhere.

I honestly don’t know if a clean bill for emergency disaster funding for Georgia could even get a majority, not if our home state representatives have drawn this kind of line in the sand.

Of course, lines in the sand have a way of disappearing in hurricanes.

The Last Democrat in Georgia January 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

“Of course, lines in the sand have a way of disappearing in hurricanes.”

…So true. Everybody’s a fiscal conservative until it happens to them and they’re the ones who desperately need the help.

Though, more than fiscal conservatism and cutting out the obvious (and shameful) attempts at overloading the bill with pork through unrelated earmarks for fire stations in California or where ever, there was also an element of Republicans playing to their base of hard-line conservatives in the Southeastern U.S. at the expense and need of liberal and Democrat-dominated states in the Northeast.

seenbetrdayz January 16, 2013 at 7:06 am

This is why I propose ending the endless wars so that we could have the funds to handle such a situation. But that won’t ever happen.

Harry January 16, 2013 at 7:26 am

End endless wars so they can pay endless entitlements. Stick a fork in it.

Ed January 16, 2013 at 7:36 am

Wait…disaster relief is an entitlement?

Harry January 16, 2013 at 7:47 am

They’re trying to treat disaster relief as an entitlement. The reality is, disaster relief just encourages and rewards further bad choices. The US has become an entitlement nation.

Ed January 16, 2013 at 7:52 am

Huh?

Harry January 16, 2013 at 8:07 am

Yeah….development within 5 miles of the Atlantic/Gulf coast and in places like the 9th ward of New Orleans should be throttled, not encouraged.

oscardagrch January 16, 2013 at 8:09 am

Because we don’t need ports, recreation, coastal defense….Sigh.

Ed January 16, 2013 at 8:15 am

Dude, Harry, I’ve said for a while that you’re the best poster on PP but you’re losing me here. Pretty sure as humans, we need to have access to large and steady amounts of water. Its sort of important, FYI.

Ed January 16, 2013 at 8:16 am

Also, I’m glad to know that you think government (or some entity) ought to “throttle” citizens’ ability to choose where they live and should promote a different way of life. Its an intriguing development in your conservative ethos, sir.

mpierce January 16, 2013 at 8:48 am

There is a difference between allowing people to choose to live where they want and having the government subsidize it at taxpayer expense. If people choose to live in a higher risk area they should assume that risk and/or buy insurance at market rates.

Government-subsidized flood insurance premiums are about half of full-risk price

Ed January 16, 2013 at 9:00 am

From your article:

“Virtually no private market for flood insurance exists for most residential and commercial properties.”

Governments also shouldn’t be in the business of (to use Harry’s words) “quashing” development, especially if he wants them do so next to the most vital resource for human life.

Mike Hassinger January 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

Ed, seriously? “…next to the most vital resource for human life.” You DO know that oceans are salty, right? Which means you can’t drink them. What are you smoking this morning?

Ed January 16, 2013 at 9:10 am

First, you can desalinate ocean water.

Second, New York City lies along the Hudson River, New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Both of which were heavily affected by hurricanes recently (not sure if your aware of that). Also, rivers (which tend to be freshwater, FYI) tend to flow into oceans.

And most critically, it is a pretty standard feature of major human developments to be on or near coasts.

Mike Hassinger January 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

Yes, I read Moby Dick as well. Humans live near coasts. Fairly certain that majority of the US population lives in areas that qualify as “coastal.” So? We should subsidize beach houses because why, exactly? I’m curious that you would support government subsidies of those people wealthy enough to enjoy an ocean view.

Ed January 16, 2013 at 9:45 am

Yes. That’s totally what I’m saying Mike. For someone who can only read narrowly and literally what I write, you took a huge and imaginative interpretation there.

The Last Democrat in Georgia January 16, 2013 at 9:47 am

Mike Hassinger, January 16, 2013 at 9:34 am-

The areas affected by Hurricane Sandy are not merely just a few sparcely-populated enclaves of wealthy people with expensive beach houses, but are rather densely-populated areas with a deep history of established settlement and a robust tourism industry with much economic activity that is of great benefit to larger overall economies of their respective states of New Jersey and New York that are in some case just a few short miles as the crow flies from Manhattan Island and New York City.

mpierce January 16, 2013 at 9:24 am

Why would a private market exist where the govt undercuts them at taxpayer expense?

They shouldn’t quash development as long as they aren’t assuming the risk of that development.

John Konop January 16, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I agree that is the core of the problem. We should allow people to live anyplace they want, but we should not be insuring areas with tax payer money to promote the problem at tax payers expense.

The Last Democrat in Georgia January 16, 2013 at 8:37 am

Harry, I get your point about discouraging development in coastal areas that are vunerable to devastating hurricane strikes.

But you’ve got to keep-in-mind that many of these coastal areas are heavily-developed because they emanated from historical settlements, established areas that were some of the first ever settled on the continent.

For example, the initial settlement and establishment of most of the areas hit hardest by Sandy dates from the 17th and 18th Century when our nation was being established as colonies by the British.

Heck, some of those areas in New York and New Jersey date back to settlement by the Dutch as far back as the 1600’s and grew quickly and steadily over the last four centuries of existence because of proximity to major fast-growing international seaports (in New York/North New Jersey and Philadelphia) that served a niche in the very-lucrative Trans-Atlantic trades for a nation that first started off as a seafaring coastal colonies and nation before it was really anything else.

Despite the obvious risks from hurricanes and volatile oceanic weather, it’s extremely hard to completely discourage coastal development in a nation with deep economic and emotional ties to the ocean where over 110 million people live in Eastern Seaboard states alone (including Georgia, which was settled as a colonial seaport/debtor’s prison on the Atlantic Ocean long before landlocked Atlanta was ever even thought of).

Though after devastating hurricane strikes on coastal regions like Florida and Louisiana over the past decade, the cost of insuring coastal and waterside development in places like FL and LA has become so high in some cases so as to be prohibitive and actually discourage some development.

IndyInjun January 16, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Frankly, subsidizing astronomical waterfront property values isn’t in the average American’s interest.

GB101 January 16, 2013 at 8:17 am

Did you ever notice how little attention is given to the role of INSURANCE? It seems as if everyone thinks that the only source of assistance when a storm hits is the government. People protect themselves by buying insurance. What government does in the wake of a natural disaster is a fraction of what the insurance industry does.

saltycracker January 16, 2013 at 9:40 am

Might want to see where the money is going. Fed disaster relief should not be applied where insurance is available. It should be used on public properties, where the safety of the general public is involved or where the actions of government agencies like the corps of engineers are part of the problem.

stillaskeptic January 16, 2013 at 10:08 am

Kingston would be King. (No pun intended.)

gcp January 16, 2013 at 11:28 am

Kingston did not vote because he is a big supporter of the useless Federal Flood Insurance Program.

Lea Thrace January 16, 2013 at 11:51 am

or because he had the flu and couldnt get clearance from his doc to fly back to dc?

gcp January 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm

And how would he have voted if he did cast his vote? And why does he continue to support Federal Flood Insurance?

stillaskeptic January 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm

…and why does gcp hate America? In Georgia a no vote, for any reason, is the equivalent of a northeastern “yes.”

Lea Thrace January 16, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I absolutely have no idea. Just thought I should point out that he has a legit reason for not voting.

stillaskeptic January 16, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Agreed.

SmyrnaSAHM January 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I could look this up (and still can later on, but since this laundry pile that’s currently giving me the side-eye isn’t going to do itself, I’ll ask here first since some of y’all have minds like a steel trap when it comes to vote tallies) – but of the current GA House delegation that was around in 2005, who voted no for aid to the Gulf Coast post-K?

Harry January 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm

The early Eastern cities were mostly built on protected bays, estuaries or rivers. For example Manhattan is some distance from the ocean. Even so, Lower Manhattan experienced flooding, but flooding was not a major game changer before tunnels and subways. I think most of the current problem can be attributed to the fact that people are now building beach communities directly on or near the ocean in order to enjoy the beach living. These communities should self-insure the risks, not count on the other taxpayers.

Concerning New Orleans, which is certainly not a beach community but is below sea level, I am very aware of the history of the levees and drainage canals in that area because the husband of my great aunt was head of the Corps of Engineers for the lower Mississippi. They had a running fight with the environmentalists (the Corps of Engineers was not PC in those days), and he in fact predicted the future hurricane flooding events because their hands were tied by those who wanted to protect the birds in Lake Pontchartrain. Hurricane Betty in the late 60s was a wake-up call but nothing substantial was done due to environmentalists. They lived on the highest point of land in the city. When he retired sometime in the Eighties and moved to Knoxville, his famous comment to me when I asked why he was moving was that he was seeking “higher ground”.

Harry January 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Sorry, I meant Hurricane Betsy, not Betty. That was another one.

IndyInjun January 16, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Harry you are as old as I am, if you remember Betsy, and that is too old.

Betsy did more damage to east central Georgia than any hurricane since.

The Last Democrat in Georgia January 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I don’t disagree that because of the weather risk, that insurance of development in coastal areas should be much higher, if not at a premium, in some cases.

But many of those coastal communities that are at-risk for hurricane damage are established resort areas that generate a significant amount of economic revenues and take in a significant amount of tax revenues for their respective states.

Some of the coastal and resort areas in New Jersey that were most affected by Hurricane Sandy date back to the 1850’s and earlier and have very-heavy population densities of up to 16,000-20,000 people per square mile.

While they may be in coastal areas that are subject to devastating hurricane strikes, Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore are major economic engines that bring great monetary and cultural benefit to the state of New Jersey in the same way that Long Island does for New York State, Ocean City does for Maryland, Virginia Beach does for Virginia, an Outer Shore does for North Carolina, a Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head does for South Carolina, not to mention the great benefits the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick bring for Georgia and so on.

Also, coastal areas along the Eastern Seaboard are not the only areas with significant risk of destruction due to natural disasters. The Midwest experiences a very-high degree of risk from frequent destructive tornados, especially in the “Tornado Alley” area of the country through the Great Plains and the Ohio Valley while the heavily-populated West Coast exists under constant threats of destructive events caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and even tsunamis.

I agree that people need to assume a significant degree of the responsibility for the risk of the places where they live. But natural disasters happen, not just in hurricane zones on the Eastern Seaboard, but other spots all over the country, and we can’t just turn our backs on our fellow Americans when they need help recovering from those natural disasters just because we are trying to make some kind of ideological point.

We can make our ideological points, which remain very valid given the state of the federal budget and the fact that Congres tried to overload the Sandy relief bill with excessive amounts of pork. But the desperate aftermath of natural disasters are not necessarily the right time to make those points.

mpierce January 16, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Those areas do generate a lot of revenue. So they should have no problem paying for the risk they assume.

analogkid January 16, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Just a guess, but I suspect those areas would be fine with paying for all of the risk they assume if they got to keep all of the revenue that is generated there, instead of having it distributed throughout their respective states.

mpierce January 16, 2013 at 10:03 pm

If I pay for my insurance, I shouldn’t have to pay taxes? Perhaps you can explain how that system would work.

analogkid January 16, 2013 at 10:21 pm

You’re aware that revenue centers (i.e., major cities and tourist destinations) are net payers in terms of taxation, right?

mpierce January 16, 2013 at 10:50 pm

As are the top 50% of wage earners. Should we subsidize all net payers? On the flip side, does that mean we remove all aide to the poor because the aren’t net payers?

analogkid January 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Interesting comment from a FairTax supporter.

mpierce January 16, 2013 at 11:43 pm

How so?

analogkid January 17, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Because you support redistribution of tax revenue from net payers to net receivers while simultaneously wishing to punish net payers for living in areas that are prone to disasters.

mpierce January 18, 2013 at 2:31 am

1) The Fair Tax redistributes less money than our current tax code.
2) I don’t see how having them pay for the risk they choose to take is punishment. I would say their taking my money to subsidize their choices comes closer to qualifying.

The Last Democrat in Georgia January 16, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Oh, people with money who live in those areas will pay for the risk they assume, and dearly.

But there’s always going to be some poor schlub (or many poor schlubs) in some trailer park or the equivalent somewhere who likely can’t pay for the risk of living in a mobile home in “Tornado Alley”, which is likely why they’re living in a mobile home in a trailer park (and as anyone who lives in the “Tornado Alley” part of the country knows all too well, for whatever reason, mobile home and trailer parks are like tornado magnets, usually being the first places to be hit first and hit the worst, by tornadoes).

mpierce January 16, 2013 at 11:39 pm

The poorest among us is a separate issue. We have a variety of safety-net programs (food stamps, utilities, housing, cell phones, etc…). I haven’t looked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have insurance subsidies for the poor already.

saltycracker January 18, 2013 at 10:02 am

We seem to be all tied up in confusion over insurance, payouts to non-insured and public safety/restoration.

FEMA National Flood Insurance Program and the Disaster Relief Program. Private insurance policies collect assessments for several state & Fed programs or pools and provide flood insurance.

The problem becomes where the govt steps in to cover property that the owner is negligent in protecting or by choice counts on govt disaster relief to assist.

saltycracker January 18, 2013 at 10:59 am

Reference on the several govt assessments on private policies was related to my Florida policies in a coastal area.

Bill Dawers January 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Looking back over these interesting comments, I just wanted to make a couple of specific points about the substance of my post.

I agree broadly with some of the comments about coastal development, but many of the neighborhoods that would be inundated by water in Savannah are many miles from the beach. Much of West Chatham County — 45 minutes or more driving to Tybee — would be flooded.

And we’re not just talking about aid to homeowners who might or might not have insurance, but flooded schools and colleges, washed out roads and bridges, damaged public buildings, etc. I don’t know what a major storm would do in terms of damage to the port and rearranging of the 25 + mile Savannah River shipping channel, but that’s obviously an issue too.

mpierce January 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm

NYC Sandy damage estimate:

$4.8 billion in uninsured private losses
$3.8 billion in insured private losses
$4.5 billion in losses to and costs incurred by City agencies
$5.7 billion in lost gross City product
$0.2 billion for US Army Corps of Engineers

saltycracker January 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Much of that should have little to do with public monies. Hurricanes set off many a local boom economy and make a lot of millionaires.

atlanta_advocate January 21, 2013 at 10:33 am

Ugh. A lot of this “let the people who choose to live in a hurricane area” cropped up after Katrina and is now being recycled for Sandy. The reason is that New Orleans is a Democratic city and at the time had a Democratic governor of its state, plus Connecticut, New Jersey and New York are Democratic areas so it makes the partisan nonsense easy.

Except that we forget that Katrina actually did as much/more damage in Republican Mississippi and Alabama as it did in Democratic New Orleans, and a lot of that damage was miles inland and not on the coast. The same year as Hurricane Katrina, there was also a huge, very damaging storm in Texas which wreaked havoc in the oil industry down there, including refineries and fields that weren’t exactly on the beach. Come to think of it, Katrina caused disruptions in the oil sector that we apparently haven’t recovered from since, as gas prices still haven’t come back to their pre-Katrina levels despite a massive global recession that should have significantly reduced oil demand (gee wonder why).

But in reality, it is all idiotic. Not only will hurricanes not exclusive to blue states, but there are also massive tornadoes, blizzards, flooding, droughts, earthquakes etc. Most of our nation is at risk for a large scale and expensive natural disaster. So there is a very good chance that at some point in the near future a red state will need federal disaster aid.

I was furious with President Obama over his refusing to so much as acknowledge the disastrous flooding that decimated Nashville a few years back. Now I am seeing that the Republicans are no better than Obama when it comes to stuff like this, and may even be worse.

Scott65 January 21, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Get ready people…the 2013 season aint gonna be anything like the last one. Most predictions are for a way above average season…neutral ENSO (no el nino/la nina), warming in Atlantic side, Cooler water in Pacific further east (not La Nina…just where it is relative to normal), and wetter than normal Central Africa. The storms will also be long track tropical storms that form in the deep tropics and move west as opposed to the “in close” or way out and north development zones of last year which makes it a very dangerous season for the lower east coast and gulf region.
As for aid…you should all be ashamed for even having this conversation. The governments job is to respond in a catastrophic situation. Just shows how looney tunes things have become. I sure hope it never happens here but I dont think you guys have any clue what even a cat 2 hurricane would do to the GA coast if there was a direct hit. It would be far worse than anything talked about here

mpierce January 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Ah yes, why have insurance at all? That’s governments job and any statement otherwise is shameful.

saltycracker January 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm

mp,

you get a category/force 5 & a 9.4 on the richter scale…..

Folks will gripe & avoid paying property insurance, health insurance & SS insurance if they can :)

saltycracker January 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Car insurance too –
in L.A. 50% of the car accidents are hit & run.
The fix according to the LAPD Chief is to allow illegals to get driver’s licenses.

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/10/11/report-illegal-drivers-behind-high-hit-and-run-rate-in-la/

Harry January 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm
Harry January 21, 2013 at 11:24 pm

“The governments job is to respond in a catastrophic situation.”
It’s become a conduit for pork to the politically connected. The really deserving and needy are of secondary importance.

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