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Report Examines Potential Economic Losses From Storm Surge on 6 Key Coastal Cities

On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina battering the Gulf Coast, Florida has declared a state of emergency as tropical storm Erika takes aim at the state – with Tampa and Miami potentially in its path. Erika is expected to make landfall as a tropical storm late Sunday or early Monday, bringing with it heavy rains.

The storm comes as a new report by Risk Management Solution (RMS), Cities at Risk: A Forward-Looking View of Wind-Driven Storm Surge, 2010-2100, reported that, “Miami and Tampa are the most risk-prone cities in terms of annual likelihood of storm surge loss.”

“A city-by-city comparison reveals that Miami is most at-risk for storm surge losses, with Baltimore the least at-risk,” the study revealed. “Today, Miami is most at risk of storm surge losses. Beyond roughly the 30-year return period, Tampa becomes the most risk prone, followed by Miami and New York City.”

“Presently (2010), Miami possesses an annual likelihood of 1.28% (78-year return period) of an event causing at least $10 billion in storm surge losses, while Tampa possesses an annual likelihood of 2.22% (45-year return period). By 2100, this increases to 5.88% (17-year return period) for Miami and 5.26% (19-year return period) for Tampa,” the RMS study concluded, adding, “Miami still remains the most risk-prone city in terms of economic loss, with return periods for at least $10 billion in economic losses under 20 years (annual likelihood of 5% or better) for all four time periods (17 year in 2010, 16 year in 2030, 13 year in 2070, 12 year in 2100).

According to the report, Hurricane Katrina, according to the global insurance industry, was the costliest catastrophe ever. And of the $41 billion in property and casualty losses, more than half was driven by storm surge alone. Today, rising sea levels and wind-driven surge are the leading causes of hurricane loss.

The report stated that, “if the same area of New Orleans were flooded today as in 2005, the losses for Orleans Parish alone would be around $15 billion.”

“With the host of lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, we looked to the future to analyze how losses from storm surge are expected to change through 2100,” the report stated, noting, “Our assessment includes how rising sea levels contribute to an increased risk of severe economic damage from flood for six key US cities: New Orleans, Miami, Tampa, Baltimore, New York City and Boston.

The report stated that, “All exceedance probability curves calculated for New Orleans have implicitly assumed that flood defenses will be continuously upgraded to keep pace with rising sea levels.”

But, “If the city’s levees are not maintained accordingly, a one-meter rise in sea levels increases the likelihood of levee failure in New Orleans by 3 times, and a two-meter rise multiples that likelihood by nearly 9 times. The sections most likely to fail for both a one-meter and a two-meter sea-level rise are sections 10-13, which protect against flooding from Lake Pontchartrain. If another Hurricane Katrina were to hit New Orleans again, total economic losses due to ground-up full storm surge are estimated around US$15 billion — a 440-year return period event. By including wind, the economic losses increase to $16.7 billion, and the return period drops slightly to 330 years.”

“New York City,” the report said, “displays the most sensitivity to sea level rise. The annual likelihood of the city suffering a $5 billion storm surge loss increases by 3.4 times from 2010 to 2100,reducing the return period from 60 years to 17 years. The likelihood of a loss event of $10 billion increases by 4.3 times, reducing the return period from 115 years to 27 years.”

The RMS study found that, “One hundred-year return period storm surge losses are projected to increase from 50% to nearly 300% between 2010 and 2100 for all cities,” and that, “Storm surge is expected to contribute to more than half of the total wind plus full storm surge losses in Baltimore, New York City and Tampa by 2100, and at least 25% for New Orleans, Boston and Miami.”

” For example, a $15 billion storm surge event today in Tampa has an 80-year return period, which drops to 30 years by 2100,” the report stated. “Miami has a 125-year return period for a $15 billion storm surge event today. However, the risk is projected to be much higher by 2100, when the return period shrinks to just 30 years. In New York City, the likelihood of a $15 billion surge loss today is relatively low with a 200-year return period — but that drops dramatically to 45 years by 2100.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said in a statement that, “Hurricane Katrina … exposed serious problems and unacceptable lapses within our nation’s preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Thousands of people suffered as a result.”

Carper said, “The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 took steps to fix many of the problems identified in the wake of the storm. For instance, the bill strengthened the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by increasing its authorities, stature and resources. And, for the first time, we required FEMA to work to help ensure our nation’s preparedness to address catastrophes. We did this by requiring FEMA to bolster its regional offices and to build stronger relationships with state, local, and tribal governments. This has improved our capability at all levels of government to respond to disasters, and also FEMA’s capability to support state, local and tribal governments as they rebuild. In addition, the bill called on FEMA to coordinate with other federal departments and state and local governments to write a national disaster recovery strategy. This led to the National Disaster Recovery Framework, which has helped organize and coordinate recovery efforts. The bill also included several important provisions to protect taxpayers and prevent waste and fraud.”

“Unfortunately, due to increasingly extreme weather we have seen in recent years, we may see more storms like Hurricane Katrina in the future,” Carper noted, saying, “That’s why we must continue to ensure that our local, state and federal governments are well-prepared to respond to disasters and save lives. Part of that effort includes ensuring that sound and effective mitigation policies are thoroughly incorporated into our preparedness work, since we know all too well that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By working together and looking ahead, we can become stronger and more resilient by better protecting ourselves from future storms.”

“Hurricane Katrina was truly an unprecedented event, and one of the most devastating and costliest natural disasters in our nation’s history,” he said, adding, “Ten years later, we must continue to heed the lessons learned from tragedy, bolster our preparedness and response efforts, and continue to support the ongoing recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. We owe it to the survivors and victims of Hurricane Katrina to do all that we can to keep Americans safe and secure from storms, and to keep history from repeating itself.”

“In the years that have followed, Congress has undertaken significant efforts to overhaul how disaster response and recovery activities are carried out to prevent the kind of suffering we saw after Katrina. We have made important progress in improving interoperable communications, emergency alerts and warnings and incident command structures, but challenges remain,” added Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “Federal disaster housing policies are not what they should be, and the American Red Cross continues to struggle to carry out its disaster response mission.”

Continuing, Thompson said in a statement Friday that, “The initial response and recovery processes after Hurricane Katrina were slow and inadequate. The magnitude of the storm’s destruction exposed serious systemic problems with how federal, state and local governments were responding to disasters at the time. For example, opportunities to pre-stage important resources before the storm were missed. Chain of command coordination failures hampered the distribution of critical federal resources. There was a lack of well-qualified, well-trained and well-funded emergency response personnel. Emergency communications hiccups — reminiscent of September 11 — undermined response efforts. And states lacked the ability to quickly or effectively drawdown much-needed federal recovery funds. Unfortunately, parts of southern Mississippi are still feeling the impact of these mistakes 10 years after the storm.”

“After Hurricane Katrina,” Thompson said, “Congress tried to address these gaps in preparedness, response and recovery by passing the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act in 2006. This legislation aims to drastically improve disaster planning efforts, streamline leadership and authorities for future disasters, improve coordination with federal, state, local and private sector partners and ensure we had effective evacuation and temporary housing plans as well as a public emergency alert and warning system.”

“Nationally,” he said, “we have made marked progress on addressing many of these gaps. Our planning and exercise programs have led to quicker, more effective response and recovery efforts. The Integrated Public Alerts and Warnings System has saved lives by getting people out of harm’s way. However, significant challenges remain, particularly with respect to federal policies related to long term recovery. Interoperable emergency communications is still a vexing problem, and substantive disaster housing options are still severely limited. During the remainder of the 114th Congress, I will continue to work to address these and other issues critical to improving our ability to respond and recover from storms like Hurricane Katrina.”

Indeed. Ten Years after Hurricane Katrina, authorities say progress and challenges remain for US emergency preparedness, which Homeland Security Today has consistently reported on since 2004.

“While we mark this 10-year anniversary with remarkable progress, we must acknowledge an ever growing obstacle: a national attention deficit,” wrote Nicole Lurie, Karen DeSalvo and Kristen Finne this week in, Health Affairs Blog.

As Tropical Storm Erika aims for Florida, you can track the storm’s progress with Esri’s  Hurricane Public Information Map. This interactive map features live data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing Erika’s projected path, as well as storm watches, warnings and storm surge information.

 
 

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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