Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A strain on federal flood insurance

Originally uploaded by pgoo.
I thought this was a no-brainer, but seems that many don't agree with me.

From today's Washington Post:
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. -- In September 1998, Hurricane Georges swept up a beachfront house along the Gulf of Mexico and tossed it like a bowling ball into John and Gail Leacy's summer home on the western edge of this barrier island. The Leacys collected thousands of dollars in federal flood insurance and rebuilt.

Last year, Hurricane Ivan slammed their Creole-style three-bedroom cottage with wind and floodwaters. And in late August, a wall of water from Hurricane Katrina severely undercut the house's concrete pad and pilings.
((Don't be content with only a teaser of this post;
read more of this musing.))
Few houses that withstood Hurricane Katrina survived intact. Walls of many homes were blown out, while pilings were destroyed or severely damaged. Three hundred homes were lost after Katrina. The local government depends on tax revenue from vacation homes for half its annual budget of $2 million.

Nearly half the money paid out by the National Flood Insurance Program since 1978 has gone to Gulf Coast states, which have a growing concentration of properties with repeated losses.

"We're still standing, but we're pretty severely damaged," Gail Leacy said from her year-round home in Mobile, Ala. "We hope we can save her."

Dauphin Island is one of the most vulnerable barrier islands in the nation. Since 1979, it has been struck by six hurricanes and has lost nearly 500 expensive vacation homes and rental properties. Yet owners keep building back, trying to elevate their homes out of harm's way. And the island has received more than $21 million in federal flood payments to help spur redevelopment.

Now, after Katrina, Leacy and hundreds of other Dauphin property owners will join thousands of others in the Gulf states filing claims against their federally backed flood insurance, putting enormous financial strain on the government-run program.
Uh, hey folks, did you pay attention in earth sciences in the 6th grade or environmental science in college or whatever course you might have taken that talked about "where earth and sky and water meet"? Barrier islands are meant to be barriers that shift and flow and ebb. You build on them and, well, shit happens.

From Gilbert Gaul's article:
"If ever there were a poster child for a barrier island that shouldn't have been developed, it's Dauphin Island," said Orrin H. Pilkey, a Duke University coastal geologist. "But it did, and now we all keep paying for it."
Perhaps we ought to change the way things are in terms of insurance. If your house gets destroyed in a flood, you receive money in the value of the home before the flood. Here's the catch: you can't rebuild. The government will no longer insure that land, ever. The homeowner takes their money and moves on.

Why do we throw good money after bad? We know the barrier islands are going to take a beating & sooner or later structures are going to come down. Let's get out of the business and allow barrier islands to do what comes naturally.

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