Lots of Activity re Pending Rise in Flood Ins. Rates

#1 – See this Wash Post article: Rise in government insurance rates to mirror rising waters, flood debt. Some excerpts from the article:

The government is slowly phasing out subsidized flood insurance for more than a million Americans with houses in flood zones who, in some cases, pay half the true commercial rate.

Some owners say they are angry because their houses near lakes, rivers, bays and oceans were much more affordable with cheap rates that will now increase by as much as 25 percent each year until the premiums equal the full risk of settling down on property mapped as a flood zone.

#2 – Check out the new report on flood insurance from the National Academy of Sciences:

The new report: Affordability of National Flood Insurance Program Premiums: Report 1 (2015)


Abstract of the report:

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) within the Federal Emergency Management Agency faces dual challenges of maintaining affordable flood insurance premiums for property owners and ensuring that revenues from premiums and fees cover claims and program expenses over time. A new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, found that these objectives are not always compatible and may, at times, conflict with one another. The report discusses measures that could make insurance more affordable for all policy holders and provides a framework for policymakers to use in designing targeted assistance programs.

Although there are multiple ways to measure the cost burden of flood insurance on property owners and renters, the report found that there are no objective definitions of affordability. Where Congress or FEMA determine insurance premiums to be unaffordable, households paying those premiums might be made eligible for assistance through the NFIP. The report says that it will be up to policymakers to select which households will receive assistance, the form and amount of assistance provided, how it will be provided, who will pay for the assistance, and how an assistance program will be administered.




FEMA Will Review All Flood Claims From H. Sandy

From the NYT on March 13, FEMA to Review All H. Sandy Flood Claims.

As noted by reader, James Fossett:

* * * this story from the New York Times which reports on an on-going dispute where it’s been alleged that engineering reports of flood damage were doctored to minimize federal flood insurance payouts. While disputes over what’s flood damage and what’s not seem endemic to recovery programs—they crop up in FEMA’s Public Assistance program as well—the fact that they’re still going on more than two years after Sandy doesn’t speak well for our ability to manage the recovery process.

See comments below.

Update on March 16: As many as 147,000 claims have to be reviewed!

Review of Alberta Province’s Role in Recovery of Calgary

English: Alberta Province within Canada. Españ...

As it often the case, the people affected by a major disaster who are not happy with the response and/or recovery efforts of the public sector want to see an independent review. A major review occurred in Christchurch N.Z  after the 2011 earthquake there — see the NZ page of this blog for the full text of the Assessment report. And in the U.S. there were independent studies after Hurricane Katrina (there were several national level reports) and after  Superstorm Sandy — a major report on recovery strategy is due out in a couple of weeks.

Now, the liberals in Calgary and elsewhere in Canada are calling for an independent study of the role and responsibilities of Alberta province with regard to response and flood policies. See: Liberal Leader Calling for Federal Flood Review.

Another article appeared today re covering the costs of recovery. Seems to me the issue of who pays for what is a matter that should have been  decided long ago. Granted there will be special cases and exceptions for Calgary, but where was the plan for a major disaster and its aftermath? As the old saying goes, The aftermath of a disaster is not the time to exchange business cards.

Living in Harm’s Way – updates

Another addition to the collection of articles about why people make risky decisions. See:
Putting the Disaster in Natural Disasters: Why Many Choose to Live in Harm’s Way

It is human nature to sometimes resist and resent government regulations. Yet, if the appropriate flood mapping and floodplain management is not done by government, homeowners are left trying to make expensive plans and decisions in a void. At times citizens need public officials to determine risks and they want to be informed about them. Government is sometimes the right actor.

Some dramatic details in the aftermath of the major flood in Calgary, Alberta. Thanks to Pierre Picard for the citations.

  • An article about the realities that 5,000 homeowners in the High Water community face when they live in a risky area – the floodplain in Calgary. See this story in the Calgary Herald. 
  • Here is another article that provides additional details. I cannot even imagine what a home would look like after being underwater for weeks. Small wonder the owners would like a buyout option.

Alberta Canada also is having a problem with a lack of current flood maps.  See this article from the Edmonton Journal.   Thanks to Franklin MacDonald for sending me these articles. The article quotes the late Gilbert White, who said,”Floods are an act of God, but flood losses are largely an act of man.”

As it true in both the U.S. and Canada, homeowners get very frustrated when they cannot determine where to rebuild, owing to old or no flood maps. One more article re this topic in Alberta.

Some people are calling for a provincial flood insurance program. To date, private insurers are having a hard time, with their public image suffering signficant damage.

NOTE:  I have pointed out this problem to the Association of State Floodplain Managers, an organization that I think can be helpful to the Calgary folks as well as officials at the provincial and national level.

More Resources on Floods – from ASFPM

Forum 4 – 2013 – Gilbert F. White National Flood Policy Forum
Human Adjustments in Coasts – Adaptive Management in Response to Changing Hazards, Risks, and Ecosystems

The 4th triennial assembly of the ASFPM Foundation Gilbert F. White National Flood Policy Forum was held on February 19-20, 2013, at George Mason University’s Arlington VA Campus. This Forum will address “Human Adjustments in Coasts – Adaptive Management in Response to Changing Hazards, Risks, and Ecosystems”. One hundred invited experts – the brightest minds on flood policy, law, governance, engineering practice, biological sciences, transecting disciplines, sectors, landscapes, and US regions – spent a day and a half developing recommendations on approaches the nation can use to adjust human occupancies and management of the coasts. These suggestions should prove instructive to decision makers at all levels of government as we prepare the nation for increased coastal population, diminishing resources, and increased storms and risk. A background paper about the Forum topic is below, along with the Program Agenda.

Flood Mitigation Efforts in Other Countries


The U.S. is not the only country trying to think ahead and find ways to mitigate future flood damage.  Queensland has experienced many devastating floods in recent years and is working to anticipate and aboid future flood damamges. Here are two sources of more information about their present efforts:

News Clip :http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/councils-be-given-protection-stop-flood-developmen/1758559/

Government Report: http://www.premiers.qld.gov.au/publications/categories/reports/assets/gov-response-floods-commission-inquiry.pdf

One more article, citing additional reports that explain the Australian approach to flood management. Feb. 15.


Article covers several decades of flood experience in the U.K.


Thanks for Chris Jones for point out these resources to me.

Floodproofing High Rise Buildings

Posted via email from hobokencondos's posterous

When a densely populated urban area contains mostly high rise dwellings, selecting mitigation measures to reduce future floods is a major challenge.  Here is one mayor’s approach: Hoboken Mayor Seeks Storm Protection More Suitable for High-Rise Buildings. Excerpts from the NY Time article on Feb. 12 follow:

The mayor of this city of 50,000 across the Hudson River from New York, badly damaged by the storm, is pushing federal and state officials to make it a test case for a new model of hurricane resilience, one that could be translated to other cities in the Northeast that rising seas have increasingly turned into flood plains.

Most bluntly, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said, that means accepting and planning for the likelihood that most residents will not evacuate, even under an official order. And it requires adjusting federal flood-insurance guidelines to recognize that it is not possible to elevate an entire city. About two-thirds of Hoboken lies in the flood zone on new federal maps, but apart from the rare single-family homes, most buildings are apartment complexes or attached houses that cannot easily be mounted on pilings.

“The rules don’t work,” Mayor Zimmer said. “They’re looking at a fairly suburban approach. We need to carve out an urban approach. Because today it’s Hoboken, tomorrow, Boston.”

Thanks to Bill Cumming for this citation.


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Staten Island – the ultimate in recovery problems

The Samuel I. Newhouse, one of two Barberi cla...


A compelling article from the HuffPost on Dec. 6th.: Staten Island’s Hurricane Sandy Damage Sheds Light on Complicated Political Battle.  For those who are not familiar with the many factors that affect recovery, be sure to read this article. It is 9 pages long, but a must read.

Staten Island after H.Sandy bears more resemblance to the 9th Ward of New Orleans after H. Katrina than you might have imagined.

The Need for Realism in Recovery Planning

The Red River drainage basin, with the Souris ...

Image via Wikipedia

Proud city will recover is the title of an editorial in the Minot Daily News on June 26.  While I do not want to demean efforts to bolster the spirits of local residents and property owners in Minot, efforts that exhort readers to return may get in the way of individual decision-making to the contrary. Not every victim of a natural disaster may have the time, will, and money to return to a damaged property. Some may not want to return to the neighborhood or even the city after the disaster.  After all,  the Souris River will still be there, and a future flood remains a possibility.

A quote comes to mind here: “Nature to be commanded must be obeyed.” Source: Sir Francis Bacon.

Here is the article with one sentenced highlighted by me:

Swamped. Devastated. Inundated. Evacuated. Flooded.

All those words describe Minot during the past week, as the Souris River swept through the heart of the city. Homes destroyed. Businesses closed or destroyed. Thousands of residents displaced.

The situation went from dire to dangerous in a matter of days. In some cases, the river made dramatic, historic changes in a matter of minutes, swamping areas that were dry one minute, and were soaked the next minute.

The city of Minot will never be the same. It can’t be.

The residents will return, whether it be in days, weeks or months. They will return to destroyed homes and shattered lives. But we have no doubt that they will return. They are, after all, Minoters and North Dakotans.

Residents all along the river fought valiantly, including weeks of backbreaking sandbagging and diking. But in the end, the river simply overwhelmed everyone’s best efforts.

Thanks to fellow blogger, Phil Palen, for pointing out this article. See his posting on the Minot flood in the Homeland Security Watch blog on June 25.

One more article on the topic of recovery in Minot appeared in the Deseret News ( Salt Lake City) on June 26.  The lack of flood insurance is a major factor in recovery decision making in Minot.