Tag Archives: hurricane

Declaration Of Storms

Obama Has Declared Record-Breaking 89 Disasters So Far in 2011

From Hurricane Irene, which soaked the entire East Coast in August, to the Midwest tornadoes, which wrought havoc from Wisconsin to Texas, 2011 has seen more billion-dollar natural disasters than any year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

And as America’s hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires set records this year, so too has President Obama in his response to them.

During the first 10 months of this year President Obama declared 89 major disasters, more than the record 81 declarations that he made in all of 2010.

And Obama has declared more disasters — 229 — in the first three years of his presidency than almost any other president signed in their full four-year terms. Only President George W. Bush declared more, having signed 238 disaster declarations in his second term, from 2005 to 2009.

But while the sheer number of bad weather events played a big role in the uptick in presidential disaster declarations, Obama’s record-setting year may have something to do with politics as well.

“There’s no question about it that the increase in the number of disaster declarations is outstripping what we would expect to see, given what we observe in terms of weather,” said Robert Hartwig, the president and economist at the Insurance Information Institute. “There’s a lot of political pressure on the president and Congress to show they are responsive to these sorts of disasters that occur.”

While the president aimed to authorize swift and sweeping aid to disaster victims, Congress was entrenched in partisan battles over how to foot the bill. When Republicans demanded that additional appropriations for a cash-strapped FEMA be offset by spending cuts, the government was almost shut down over disaster relief funding.

Such budget showdowns have become commonplace in Congress, but a similarly slow response to natural disasters by the president has been met with far more pointed and politically damaging criticism. Former President Bush learned that the hard way after what was seen as a botched initial response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Ever since that time we’ve seen FEMA try to act more responsively and we’ve seen presidents more engaged in the issues going on with respect to disasters,” Hartwig said.

Mark Merritt, who served as deputy chief of staff at FEMA during the Clinton Administration, said Obama’s record-breaking number of declarations has less to do with politics and more to do with demographics.

People are moving to high-risk areas like beaches and flood plains, more bad weather events are occurring and the country’s infrastructure is “crumbling,” he said.

“It’s not being used any more as a political tool today than it has over the past 18 years,”
said Merritt, who is now the president of the crisis management consulting firm Witt Associates. “Everybody can say there’s a little bit of politics involved, and I won’t deny that, but I don’t think it’s a political tool that politicians use to win reelections.”

Politics aside, Obama’s higher-than-ever number of disaster declarations may also have a lot to do with the broad scale of this year’s disasters, which led to more declarations of catastrophes because each state affected by the disaster gets its own declaration.

For example, Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992, cost upwards of $40 billion in damage, but resulted in only one disaster declaration because the damage was almost entirely confined to one state.

Hurricane Irene, on the other hand, pummeled much of the East Coast this summer, causing the president to make 9 disaster declarations, one for each state affected. Although there were 8 more declarations for Irene than for Andrew, the Irene caused about $7 billion in damage, a fraction of the damage caused by Andrew (up to $42 billion in today’s dollars).

Each presidential disaster declaration makes the federal government — specifically FEMA — responsible for at least 75 percent of the recovery costs, relieving cash-strapped state and local governments of the billions in damages caused by this year’s hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

Richard Salkowe, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Florida who studies federal disaster declarations and denials, argued that the trend toward more declarations stems from local governments becoming more aware of the availability of federal funds.

“The local governments and state governments have become more aware of the process and more efficient in using it,” Salkowe said. “I’d say yeah, there are more states that have overwhelming needs, and that may have lead to the Obama administration declaring more disaster areas.”

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Unprecendented Weather Disasters Plague America

US counts the cost of nine months of unprecedented weather extremes

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration, there have been 10 major disasters this year

John Vidal, environment editor

As deadly fires continue to burn across bone-dry Texas and eight inches of rain from tropical storm Lee falls on New Orleans, the US is beginning to count the cost of nine months of unprecedented weather extremes.

Ever since a massive blizzard causing $2bn of damage paralysed cities from Chicago to the north-east in January, nearly every month has been marked by a $1b+-weather catastrophe. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration (Noaa), there have been 10 major disasters already this year, leaving more than 700 people dead and property damage of over $35bn (£22bn).

In the past 31 years the mainland states have suffered 99 weather-related disasters where overall damages and economic costs were over $1bn. This year has seen three times as many than as usual.

Noaa will release its August data next week but Summer 2011 is expected to be the warmest on record. Chris Burt, author and leading weather historian, has complied a list of more than 40 cities and towns that have experienced record temperatures this year.

“So many heat records of various types have been shattered this past summer that it is impossible to quantify them,” he said. “Not since the great heat waves of 1934 and 1936 has the US seen so many heat-related records broken as occurred this summer. The back-to-back nature of the intensity of the past two summers should raise some interesting questions, questions I am not qualified to address.”

This year, the UN World Meteorological Organisation said 2010 was the warmest year on record, confirming a “significant” long-term trend of global warming and producing exceptional weather variations.

The insurance company Munich Re said in the first six months of the year there were 98 natural disasters in the US, about double the average of the 1990s.

“The increasing impacts of natural disasters, as seen this year, are a stark reminder of the lives and livelihoods at risk. Severe weather represents a very real threat to public safety,” said Jack Hayes, director of Noaa’s National Weather Service.

But the US is not alone. 2011 has seen the deepest drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa which has contributed to a famine in Somalia and 10 million people affected in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda. Southern Africa, however, experienced unusually heavy rainfall.

Latin America has suffered a series of disasters. More than 500 people died in some of Brazil’s worst rainstorms and mudslides in January, and Columbia faced what it called its worst-ever natural disaster when months of rain and floods devastated the north of the country. Meanwhile Mexico and much of central America experienced one of their deepest droughts in many years.

Korea, the Philippines, parts of China have been racked with some of the worst storms in a century, with flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain .

2011 has also seen a series of major non-weather-related natural disasters. The worst, by some way, was the Japanese tsunami which killed at least 12,000 people and devastated the country. However, 6.2 or above earthquakes have hit New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, the Fox Islands, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Indonesia, Fiji, Thailand, Burma, Vanuatu, Argentina, Chile and Iran in the first six months of 2011. Smaller ones have hit Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tonga, and the Solomon Islands.

In addition the Arctic ice melt this year hit a record in July and is expected to the second or third greatest ever recorded, says the US national snow and ice data centre.

• This article was amended on 05 September 2011. The original stated the death toll for the Japanese tsunami was 1,200,000 instead of 12,000. This has been corrected

A year of US disasters – 2011 so far

• Hurricane Irene, August 20-29. Over $7bn and around 50 deaths.

• Upper Midwest flooding. The Missouri and Souris rivers overflowed in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. Damages: $2bn.

• Mississippi river flooding, spring and summer. Damages neared $4bn.

• Drought and heatwave in Texas, Oklahoma. Over $5bn.

• Tornadoes in midwest and south-east in May kill 177 and cost more than $7bn in losses.

• Tornadoes in the Ohio Valley, south-east and midwest on April devastate the city of Tuscaloosa, kill 32 and cause more than $9bn in damages.

• Tornadoes hit from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania 14–16 April. Toll: $2bn in damages.

• 59 tornadoes in midwest and north-east April 8-11. Damages: $2.2bn.

• 46 tornadoes in central and southern states 4 and 5 April. Toll: $2.3bn in damages.

• Blizzard late January paralyse cities from Chicago to the north-east. Toll: 36 deaths and more than $2bn in damages.

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12 Things That We Can Learn About How To Prepare For Disasters And Emergencies

12 Things That We Can Learn From Hurricane Irene About How To Prepare For Disasters And Emergencies

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The Economic Collapse Blog

Whenever a major disaster or emergency strikes, millions of lives can be turned upside down in an instant. Fortunately Hurricane Irene was not as catastrophic as originally projected, but millions of people did lose power and at least 35 people lost their lives. Large numbers of homes were destroyed and the economic damage from Hurricane Irene is going to be in the billions of dollars. Now that Hurricane Irene has passed, this is a good opportunity for all of us to look back and learn some important lessons about how to prepare for disasters and emergencies. The reality is that a major disaster or emergency has happened somewhere in the United States almost every single month so far this year, and it is only a matter of time before you and your family will be faced with another disaster or emergency.

No plan is perfect, but if you have a plan you are going to be far better off than if you do not have a plan. September is “National Preparedness Month”, so now is a great time to focus on preparing your family for the future disasters and emergencies that are inevitably coming.

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The following are 12 things that we can learn from Hurricane Irene about how to prepare for disasters and emergencies….

#1 Disasters And Emergencies Are Inherently Unpredictable

When a disaster or an emergency strikes, you never know what is going to happen. Even a storm such as Hurricane Irene that was tracked for weeks can end up being highly unpredictable.

For example, while a tremendous amount of attention was paid to New York City, the reality is that some of the worst damage ended up being caused in Vermont. Hurricane Irene actually caused the worst flooding that Vermont has seen since 1927.

The following is how the governor of Vermont described the devastation that was caused in his state by this storm….

“It’s just devastating,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday. “Whole communities under water, businesses, homes, obviously roads and bridges, rail transportation infrastructure. We’ve lost farmers’ crops,” he said. “We’re tough folks up here but Irene … really hit us hard.”

#2 During A Major Disaster Store Shelves Become Empty Very Rapidly

What do we see happen every single time there is even a minor disaster or emergency?

Every single time, food and other emergency supplies disappear from store shelves in a matter of hours.

If you do not have at least a couple weeks of food stored up you are being totally foolish.

In fact, considering how unstable the world has become, it is amazing that only a small percentage of the population has enough food stored up to be able to last for at least six months.

If an economic apocalypse happens, a major war breaks out, an EMP attack takes place, a huge comet strikes the planet or weapons of mass destruction are used in this country, you may not have access to mass quantities of very cheap food any longer.

Get prepared while you still can.

#3 Always Have A “Go Bag” Ready

When disaster strikes, you may only have a couple of minutes before you have to race out the door.

Your “go bag” should contain some food, some water, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, some cash, copies of your most important documents and any medicine that you may need.

#4 Know Your Escape Routes And Always Have Maps Of The Area In Your Vehicle

Have a plan and know where you are going to be heading in the event of an emergency.

If you don’t have a plan or if you don’t give yourself enough time, you could end up dead. A number of people died during Hurricane Irene while they were in their cars. The following is one example that was noted in a recent CNN article….

A 64-year-old woman was found dead Sunday by Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, police after her family grew concerned when she did not show up for work. Her body was found a half-mile from where her car was abandoned in a deluged creek, police said.

#5 During A Major Disaster Or Emergency There Is A Good Chance That You Will Lose Power For An Extended Period Of Time

During Hurricane Irene, more than 5 million people lost power. That is why it is crucial to have a battery-powered radio, a battery-powered (or solar) flashlight and extra batteries in your home.

Know what you are going to do once the power goes out. Anyone that has been through an extended power outage knows how life can change almost instantly once the power goes down.

#6 Have Enough Water Stored Up

What was one of the biggest problems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

It turned out that one of the most critical problems was a very serious shortage of bottled water.

Yes, even after Katrina dumped unprecedented amounts of water on New Orleans one of the biggest problems was still a lack of water.

If you do not have clean water to drink, you can die within just a few days.

So when planning for disasters and emergencies, please be sure to store up enough water.

#7 During A Natural Disaster, Major Transportation Routes May Be Shut Down

A lot of people were horrified to find roads closed or washed out during Hurricane Irene. Just because you are used to traveling on certain roads it is not safe to assume that they will always be available during disasters and emergencies.

#8 Have Respect For The Sheer Power Of Natural Disasters

We live at a time when people like to make a joke out of anything, but major natural disasters are not to be trifled with.

If you do not respect nature, you can end up dead. Amazingly, some people were actually out boating and canoeing during Hurricane Irene. According to one CNN article, one 53-year-old man that tried boating during Hurricane Irene was later found dead….

One man in Croton, New York, died Sunday while boating along with four others down the Croton River, said Lt. Russell Haper, a spokesman for the Croton police. The boat overturned in the strong rapids. The 53-year-old man was found dead after a three-hour rescue effort. The other men were pulled safely from the water.

#9 Living Near Water Can Be Very Dangerous

If you live near the ocean or near a major river, you need to understand that the potential for danger is always there.

Even if you live a good bit in from the coast, the danger for substantial flooding is always there. The following is how one CNN article described the situation in Philadelphia at the height of Hurricane Irene….

Outside Philadelphia, waters had already climbed to street-sign levels in Darby, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said, with the water sending “couches, furniture, all kinds of stuff floating down the street.”

#10 During A Major Disaster Bring In All Objects From Outside

During any disaster that involves high winds, anything that is left outside can quickly become a very dangerous projectile. The last thing that you want is for the wind to pick up heavy objects and send them crashing into your home or the home of a neighbor. If you know that a major storm is coming, please bring in everything that you can from outside.

#11 Have A Plan But Be Flexible

Your best chance of making it through a disaster or emergency is to have a plan. But that doesn’t mean that you should always stick with that plan. Disasters and emergencies are inherently unpredictable, so it will be very important to be as flexible as possible.

#12 If You Wait Until Disaster Strikes To Prepare It Is Too Late

Right now is the time to prepare for the next disaster or emergency. If you wait until an emergency happens, you will be out of luck. You need to develop a disaster plan for yourself and your family if you do not have one already.

If you plan on storing up food, water, medicine and other emergency supplies, you need to do it ahead of time. Victory belongs to the prepared, and if you think that you will never wind up in the middle of a major disaster you are just being foolish.

Hurricane Irene was a terrible storm, but fortunately it was not nearly as bad as it could have been.

Hopefully this storm will serve as a wake up call for many of us.

The next time that a disaster strikes, we may not be let off the hook so easily.

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