Get the Hell out of Dodge, or Up Above Sea Level, At Least

This NYT editorial gives the briefest summary of the challenges that face places like New Orleans I could find. I’m sure you could find far more comprehensive treatises discussing the dire predicament of Gulf Coast/Delta properties that happen to have sunken below the mean sea level over the years that the coast has eroded…in no small part because of the need to preserve those places from the very problems they cause.

Some estimates put the cost of Katrina around $16 billion. Others go as high as $25 billion. A good-sized chunk of that will be spent cleaning out and shoring up New Orleans and other such communities. Literally hundreds of thousands of people live in areas that would be under water without human intervention. As Katrina has amply demonstrated, no amount of intervention can keep the city above the waves permanently.

I know there are global warming deniers out there, but hopefully they are few. Probably most of us can agree, whatever the cause, the Earth is getting warmer, and this trend will continue for centuries, at least. The seas will become warmer, and inevitably rise. A sobering statistic: While the frequency of hurricanes hasn’t changed all that much over the past century or so, their strength has, by upwards of 50% today over what they were in the past. That means Andrew- and Katrina-sized storms are steadily becoming less and less anomalous. The SE US and the Gulf Coast is in for a hell of a costly ride.

So do we keep paying to clean up after catagory 4 and 5 storms that literally submerge miles of habitated land, or continue to fight the forces of nature to preserve the sinking coastline? What, ultimately, is the most cost-effective approach, and do we need to start abandoning the low ground now so as to spare us the burden of multi-billion-dollar catastrophes of ever-increasing frequency?

Just get rid of FEMA and economic forces will help to determine if it’s worth living in areas like New Orleans or Florida that are guaranteed to be hit by these storms. If people want to live there, then we should not subsidize the rebuilding of their homes year after year.

Says the guy who lives in an artifically drained swamp. The problem is that just about every habitable area of the United States has it’s own little disaster problems. Tornados, earthquakes, mud slides, floods, drought, and blizzards are just a few I can think of off the top of my head. I don’t remember exactly what percentage of the population lives near the coast but it’s staggering. What are you going to do with New York City if the sea level goes up a few feet? It isn’t just Florida or Louisiana that’s going to be affected.


There aren’t too many areas in the US which are completely free of natural disasters-- hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires . . . . There’s always going to be a need for FEMA.

Secondly, what should people in those areas do? Completely abandon their property? Sell out-- but who will buy it? How will they afford property in a “safer” area if they can’t sell the property they have now? Not many people can just up and move quickly-- they need to find jobs in other areas, housing, etc. If you moved all of the people from disaster-prone areas to “safe” places, those places would be overburdened.

Thirdly, think of all the construction jobs that rebuilding generates, not to mention all of the purchases one must make to outfit a home. It’s money going right back into the economy in a quite beneficial manner.

The “tough shit” approach is bad for the economy. Think of hundreds of thousands of people out of work, homeless, hungry and desperate. They’re not paying taxes-- they’re a drain on resources. Add to this that hungry people are dangerous people and you’ve got a bad situation all around. (Crime rates would skyrocket.)

Yeah, and they just let Venice sink into the ocean as well.
How much tax revenue do places like New Orleans, Miami create. If we don’t rebuild places hurt by a natural disaster, an economic disaster won’t be far behind. Oh, and remeber that the 25 billion is a direct stimulus to the economy. It’s not spending billions on research that may pay off. This money goes to contractors, building infrastructre. It creates jobs. If we didn’t do this there would be… about 2 million people out of a job today? (2 million is a guess) Do you know how bad that would be for the entire country?

Hell, I’m all in favor of draining swamps. I’m not in favor of the government rewarding people who build in areas where they know there homes are likely to be heavily damaged by natural disasters.

Yes, but not all areas of the country have as many predictable disasters as, say, Florida.

I’m not in favor of forcing anyone to move. I’m simply in favor of the feds saying that the next time there is a disaster, the federal government is not helping out. People can evaluate their situation from there. If they think it’s worth the risk, they’ll stay. If they don’t, they move.

No, it’s not. That’s a common economic fallacy – disasters help the economy. Actually, they damage the economy, since a large amount of wealth in those areas is destroyed. The money that’s going for construction and other things is simply money that’s being diverted from other uses to help restore the area to the way it was before. It isn’t helping the economy at all. It’s a drain on the economy. And the feds are encouraging this.

If the feds didn’t subsidize these folks, then maybe they would not be in this situation.

I see the point of rebuilding most of the time, but at what point to we declare the cost:benefit to be too small? One might rebuild after a major earthquake, becase major earthquake or tsunami because those are rare. One might not rebuild on the slopes of a highly active volcano, if one is fairly confident another lava flow will plow through soon and erase the rebuilding effort.

Large portions of the Mississippi Delta are sinking, in no small part because of the complex system of levees that is there to preserve the habitated land. 80% of New Orleans is under water right now, because a levee broke. As the city contitues to sink, the sea-level contitues to rise, and hurricanes continue to become more powerful, the probability of another major disaster like this continues to increase. Some speculated before Katrian struck that if it scored a direct hit on New Orleans as a cat-5 storm, it would have effectively destroyed the city. An indirect hit from a cat-4 storm was nothing to take lightly. The future for these areas looks increasingly bleak, without some kind of major effort to not only rebuild, but strengthen to the point that the city could conceivably survive a direct hit from a cat-5 storm. How costly would that be? Does the ratio still work out in favor of saving these areas?

The problem is the feedback loop. Politicians of all stripes love nothing more than doling out money to constituents (or potential constituents). Remember how Bush rushed to Florida last year about this time to **personally **help distribute goods after a hurricane. It couldn’t have been that Florida was a swing state, could it? :slight_smile: FEMA type aid is too juciy a plum for any politician to be expected to chop down the tree that produces it.

I’m under no illusion that my political ideas will ever become reality.

Neither am I. I’m just calling it like I see it. I tend to agree with your overall analysis, btw.

You are familiar with a little place called California?



I’m not sure. Where is it?

What about it? I don’t think FEMA should be there for them, either. If they want to build on a fault line, then either get good insurance or pray an earthquake doesn’t hit.

Okay, we have the California fault system. We have the Cascade volcanoes. We have Tornado Alley, and the Southeast tornado region. We have the areas endangered by hurricanes, which basically constitutes everything south of the Catskills and east of the Appalachians, plus all the Gulf states including much of Texas. We have the areas that get blizzards and ice storms.

And the one small region that is not included in all of the above is due to be hit by earthquakes from the New Madrid Fault someday.

So where is everyone supposed to be moving to?

Define “Be there for them,” and we might even agree, at least in part.

Should FEMA be handing out rebuilding cash? Maybe not.

Should FEMA assist in providing temporary shelter? Probably so.

Should FEMA be providing immediate emergency assistance? Hell, yes.

Should FEMA be abolished? Hell, no.

You leave me outta this.
ensconced in the midwest.

One thing about the tornado regions is that tornados are very limited in the destruction they cause. They don’t inundate entire cities, and it’s entirely possible to build a structure in the heart of tornado country and never have it hit by a tornado. Likewise, droughts and blizzards can make life miserable, but by and large they don’t cause massive damage to buildings, homes, and infrastructure.

Contrast that with building on a fault line, or in a floodplain, or right next to the beach, or on the side of a dirt-covered mountain, or at the foot of an active volcano, or in a giant depression 10 feet below sea level – in all of these cases, you’re virtually guaranteed to have major destruction sooner or later, and if people insist on building in places like this, they shouldn’t be surprised when their buildings are obliterated.

Iowa. 81 degrees F today 29% humidity. In 6 months it will be 9 degrees with 10% humidity but that is the breaks. No hurricaines, An occasional Tornado, and quite a ways north of the New Madrid Fault.

Luckily, very few know the secret. :slight_smile:

And once again, I say: Cost:benefit analysis is the crux here. Not all disasters are made alike. Not all of them, are, for instance, highly probable within a span of time measured in years or decades.