Guest essay by Rud Istvan
This (possible) guest post is a result of watching the MSM commentary on Hurricane Harvey in SE Texas (Houston), and the buildup to possible Cat 4-5 Irma. (Note, which we are watching carefully, since live east of the Intercoastal directly on the Atlantic in Fort Lauderdale, with the ocean preternaturally calm and hot for this time of year.) We chose to live here, and should ourselves pay the local price if Irma comes. Hence this philosophical guest post.
Highly relevant side fact comment: We are not stupid, yet did not buy Federal Flood Insurance. We live on the 12th floor of a 27 floor concrete and steel condo building built to post Andrew hurricane standards in 1998. Steel reinforced concrete footings 80 feet down into ‘bedrock’ every ~ 10 feet (spacing is parking garage determined). Our balcony sliding glass/aluminum doors are cat 5 proof (the standard being a 2×4 flung at 150 mph), entailing double 1/8 inch safety glass (nitrogen sealed) set in ¼ in thick aluminum frames with 3 inch rain sills, double bolted every 18 inches into 8 inch steel reinforced concrete. Not light or cheap (even though Wilma did overtop the sills a bit requiring some mop up with towels that terrifying night). The building ‘ground floor’ which is the lowest parking level is purpose built ~10 feet above mean high tide (MHT) behind artificial sand dunes planted in sea oats and sea grapes (against wave erosion), and equipped with emergency generator powered flood drain pumps. In a hurricane approach, all lowest parking deck vehicles are relocated to the second of three parking decks, 20 feet above MHT (like the building lobby entrance) to accommodate storm surge. And, all the entrances from the lowest parking garage level to those elevators are purpose built like concrete/steel/gasket Navy ship seal doors. So heavy, they require electric motors to open and close. (And all elevator mechanisms are at the building top, not the bottom, and double conduited and sealed.) All the emergency services like nat gas standby generators to operate elevators and hall lighting are located on the second “land” floor” above 20 feet of storm surge (and tested for one hour every other day). Cheap, no. Safe, yes. As Wilma more or less proved in 2005 when we rode her out. Building was fine. Surroundings were not. Weeks of misery. Should probably have evacuated. Will next Cat greater than 2.
So it seems to me that there are three levels of responsibility to natural disasters—whether weather or ‘climate’. The first level is implied by E Pluribus Unum (read the motto on all US coinage). AKA the United States of America. We are a Union of States with very different circumstances, committed to constitutionally providing a united minimum response anywhere including military and legal. OK, per Constitution Preamble. That means New England is threatened by winter blizzards, the Gulf and SE Coasts by fall hurricanes, the Mississippi Valley by spring melts, and the West Coasts by earthquakes at any time whatsoever. Deal. We will help you if you help us. The differences and randomness almost guarantees this ‘macrodeal’ is ‘fair’. Nobody can know otherwise. God Bless America.
But then there is a second, more local/regional level of mutual responsibility. New Englander’s should pay for standby snowplows that have no utility in Los Angeles. Affected Californians should pay for earthquake resistant buildings that have no utility in New England. With respect to Harvey, why is the rest of the country being asked to pay for housing damage in suburban tracts that were build in designated flood plains when the Army Corps of Engineers finally was required to build Addicks and Barker dry reservoirs feeding Buffalo Bayou? Why is this not a Houston local responsibility? Tragedy, yes. Avoidable by responsible local adaptation, also yes. And little to do with E Pluribus Unum.
But then there is a third level personal responsibility. Per current main steam media (MSM), only 20% of those who bought overbuilt homes in known since 1930’s metropolitan Houston flood plains bought national federal flood insurance from the now bankrupt Federal Flood Insurance Program (bankrupt because of the preceding paragraph and ongoing stupidity). And we at hurricane risk in Fort Lauderdale, after having paid much privately for personal hurricane security, are being asked to also pay for this Houston nonsense because the results are so sad. No. The results were locally and self determined. Houston violated our E Pluribus Unum bargain. There should be no free pity rides.