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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 441193  
Subject: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 10:16 AM
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People are still talking about "Superstorm Sandy". It was the biggest (in dimension) Atlantic hurricane in history. Massive damage and disruption. And while technically she reached category 2, she hit the Northeast as a category 1 storm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffir%E2%80%93Simpson_Hurrican...

A hurricane is a hurricane, don't get me wrong. But category 1 is pretty wimpy (by hurricane standards). 1poorlady is quite familiar with typhoons (Pacific hurricanes), and a "signal 1" (same at cat 1) doesn't even phase her (probably like most Californians barely notice a 3.0 quake). Katrina was cat 5 when it wiped out New Orleans.

NPR was going on about shore developments in the NYC area. Got me wondering...what if Sandy had reached cat 2 at landfall. Or cat 3 (sustained winds up to 129mph). As it is she had a "lowest pressure" of 940 mbars (705 torr). That is atypical of a cat 1 storm (per the wiki), and is more typical of a cat 4 storm. With greater wind speeds the pressure might have gone even lower, creating more surge.

Sandy could have exceeded Katrina in terms of damage, and maybe even loss of life. NYC is much more densely populated.

Rising sea levels, warming ocean temperatures, and changing wind patterns. I certainly don't wish it, but I wonder if NYC better be prepared for more of this. Isn't global warming fun?
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Author: goofnoff Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414498 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 10:20 AM
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Why do we allow people to build permanent homes and businesses on coast lines and flood plains?

Makes no sense to me.

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Author: albaby1 Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414500 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 10:30 AM
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Why do we allow people to build permanent homes and businesses on coast lines and flood plains?

Makes no sense to me.


"We all like to congregate at boundary conditions. Where land meets water. Where earth meets air. Where bodies meet mind. Where space meets time. We like to be on one side, and look at the other" - Douglas Adams

Of course, that's just an explanation of why we like being near coast lines. The direct answer to your question is that we generally don't 'allow' things in this country, but rather you're at liberty to do whatever you like unless government prohibits it. For good or ill, an outright prohibition on building anything on land is usually (though not always) considered a taking of private property under the Fifth Amendment. So local governments (who typically have the primary role in these things) are often loathe to prohibit development and risk liability.

Why we subsidize flood insurance is a different question, of course....

Albaby

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414502 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 10:58 AM
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Why we subsidize flood insurance is a different question, of course....

I've been asking that for years. We absolutely shouldn't. It encourages folks to build in places they shouldn't (often rich people, since who else can afford beach-front property).

If you can afford to purchase the insurance yourself, fine. Go for it. If not, well you pays your money and you takes your chances.

I'd like to see subsidized flood insurance phased-out over the next few years (but it won't happen).

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Author: sano Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414504 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 11:06 AM
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I'd like to see subsidized flood insurance phased-out over the next few years

If you're just talking about oceanfront residential, that's one thing.... but what about river flood plains?

That'd be HUGE.

So much construction across the country is in historic flood plains becuase we needed industry built where there was water for industrial processes, and lakes/rivers/canals on which the goods could be transported.

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Author: goofnoff Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414505 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 11:11 AM
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,i>Why we subsidize flood insurance is a different question, of course....


Which is exactly how all this development occurs, of course, because we underwrite the risk.

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Author: AngelMay Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414507 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 11:13 AM
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Why we subsidize flood insurance is a different question, of course....

Albaby




Well, it IS possible to be flooded through no fault of your own even when you live nowhere near the coastline.

AM

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Author: albaby1 Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414508 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 11:16 AM
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I've been asking that for years. We absolutely shouldn't. It encourages folks to build in places they shouldn't (often rich people, since who else can afford beach-front property).

Well, part of the reason is related to what I described above. Regulation of land use and development patterns is almost entirely done at the local level - city and county, mostly, with little involvement at the federal level. When the National Flood Insurance Program was implemented back in 1968, it was intended to be the carrot to induce local governments to be more responsible in planning development - in order to qualify for subsidized flood insurance, local governments had to adopt floodplain regulations. The notion was that the feds would spend less money on disaster relief if local governments adopted some tighter regulations governing coastal development.

All of this is necessitated, in part, by the fact that most major cities are coastal or on major navigable rivers (or both). For much of human history, water transport was the most efficient means of large scale transportation. And for much of human history, the dominant form of personal transit was walking. So most of our business and financial centers (and thus our cities) were near ports, and those ports had to become big population centers.

So - given that people were going to live in coastal areas anyway, the NFIP seemed like an efficient way of managing it. Whether the 'moral hazard' of inducing more people to move closer to the coast outweighs that is a huge debate.

Albaby

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Author: GardenStateFool Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414509 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 11:17 AM
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Why do we allow people to build permanent homes and businesses on coast lines and flood plains?

Or in earthquake zones.

Or in areas prone to wildfires.

Or in mudslide areas.

Or near other humans.

Or, or, or.

The question becomes where do we draw the line?

Also, flood insurance doesn't cover that much at all.

GSF

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Author: Beridian Big red star, 1000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414510 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 11:17 AM
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Rising sea levels, warming ocean temperatures, and changing wind patterns. I certainly don't wish it, but I wonder if NYC better be prepared for more of this. Isn't global warming fun?

I expect we won't have to wait very long to find out, a year or three at tops. The New York area should be frantically building a system of dikes and constructing other flood control measures, they likely already are doing so.

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Author: albaby1 Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414511 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 11:26 AM
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Well, it IS possible to be flooded through no fault of your own even when you live nowhere near the coastline.

True. After all, many floodplains are near rivers, rather than coasts. However, you probably don't qualify for federally-subsidized insurance if you don't live in a flood-risk area, since flood insurance is relatively inexpensive outside of those flood zones.

Albaby

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Author: Jeanwa Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414513 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 11:40 AM
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True. After all, many floodplains are near rivers, rather than coasts.

==========================================

I don't know how it is in other areas, but here it seems like the city, Corp of Engineers and the Dept of Fish and Wildlife can't get together on the maintenance of the river that runs through our town.

The Corp built a dike back in the 60s I think. Before I got here in 1972. The city's responsibility was to keep the channel clean and the brush off the banks. Anything over two inches in diameter had to be cut. They usually did this in the spring, bringing in heavy equipment to remove the rock build up in the channel.

The Dept of Fish and Wildlife put a stop to this practice. The distance from the bottom of the bridge used to be 8 feet, now it's less than 6.

In 1996 we had a heavy snow fall then warm weather, melting the mountain snow faster than the river could handle the flow. The areas next to the dike flooded as the waters went higher than the dike.

If the channel had been kept to the previous depth there would have been no flood.

It's frustrating to see different government departments arguing with each other instead of trying to work for a balance between flood prevention and fish habitat.

Jean

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414516 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 12:02 PM
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This is one of those situations where I agree that the market should decide. Otherwise we are privatizing the gains, and socializing the risks. Plus it encourages further ill-advised development, compounding the risk (not only to taxpayers, but also to people who die in the floods because they built someplace that could be flooded).

Consider New Orleans. We should have abandoned most of that city. Used the monies to relocate people instead of rebuilding and making vain attempts at fortifying the "defenses". NO is below sea level (or most of it is), and it's in a place where it is guaranteed to have more large hurricanes ever few years. It will be destroyed again**. If someone really (really!) wants to live there, fine. If they can afford the insurance, more power to them. A lot of people died there, and one could argue that cheap insurance that encouraged development was a factor.

1poorguy



**I won't repeat my rant on this. But due to a combination of factors, this really isn't in doubt. It's just a matter of time.

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Author: goofnoff Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414517 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 12:06 PM
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instead of trying to work for a balance between flood prevention and fish habitat.

Now you're in my living room. We control floods by destroying streams. There is no balance. You have a choice. Build on the flodd plain and use channelization, which kills all the fish, to control floods, or build back a reasonable distance from the stream.

I know what choices are being made. Glad I lived when I did. Thousands of miles of trout water in PA and NY have been channelized out of existence in my lifetime. Hope you like dead streams.

Yours

Goofnoff..who spent many a day doing stream improvement work

We tried..

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Author: goofnoff Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414518 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 12:07 PM
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Otherwise we are privatizing the gains, and socializing the risks

Which is one of the reasons we are 16 trillion in debt while the plutocrats walk away whistling.

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Author: albaby1 Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414521 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 12:58 PM
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This is one of those situations where I agree that the market should decide. Otherwise we are privatizing the gains, and socializing the risks. Plus it encourages further ill-advised development, compounding the risk (not only to taxpayers, but also to people who die in the floods because they built someplace that could be flooded).

Like so many things in life, people are the problem - they don't behave perfectly, so government has to adopt imperfect policies.

People are going to live in flood zones, no matter what. Perhaps they shouldn't, but they're going to. It might make sense in a cold, calculating way to let them suffer for their own poor choices when disaster does strik. But we're not going to - we're going to help them. And disaster relief from general funds on an ad hoc basis for poorly designed floodplain development is far more expensive than an orderly federal insurance program that collects premiums (and requires design regulations) to cover those expenses.

Does that socialize the risk? Only somewhat - after all, the risk is already partially socialized, by our shared values that we're not going to allow a flood-struck community to go without aid. It's hard to let the 'market' work when you're going to step in and provide an emergency backstop on the public dime anyway - it can be more expensive for the government than just coming in from the outset.

Albaby

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Author: rmhj Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414522 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 1:09 PM
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So much construction across the country is in historic flood plains becuase we needed industry built where there was water for industrial processes, and lakes/rivers/canals on which the goods could be transported.

Amusingly? Horrifyingly? Many airports are located on flood plains, because (a) the land is often cheap, (b) it's often relatively flat, (c) it's easy to put back together after a flood.

A consequence of this, however, is that there tends to be a lot of wildlife around aiports -- nearby water, routes of ingress/egress/migration, &c. It also makes for not-rare bird strikes, engine-outs, deer/elk/moose on runways, ...

rj

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414523 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 1:27 PM
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Does that socialize the risk? Only somewhat - after all, the risk is already partially socialized, by our shared values that we're not going to allow a flood-struck community to go without aid. It's hard to let the 'market' work when you're going to step in and provide an emergency backstop on the public dime anyway - it can be more expensive for the government than just coming in from the outset.

Certainly we will help. But what sort of help?** However, I think the subsidized insurance encourages development in places where it shouldn't.

I am all for regulations so that someone buying a property is informed (and signs-off on) the flood plain status. That's a routine part of buying property here in AZ. And I can even see requiring insurance in particularly high-risk areas. Unsubsidized insurance.


**I think people living on the beach shouldn't get any if they didn't buy insurance. I would have more sympathy for a farmer in the midwest. No, I'm not sure how to codify that into a regulation or law. If we're just going to bail out everyone (no pun intended), then why bother with the facade of insurance at all? And what about New Orleans? Relocating those people would have been better "help" than trying to rebuild a doomed city.

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414525 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 1:29 PM
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It also makes for not-rare bird strikes, engine-outs,...

Yep. Scary what a single bird can do (much less a flock of them).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549

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Author: sano Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414526 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 1:41 PM
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Otherwise we are privatizing the gains, and socializing the risks.

One of my mantras... almost. It's "privatizing profits, socializing expenses."

A conservative on PA just came to the realization that this is exactly what low paying businesses are doing wrt to healthcare needs of labor. Using WMT as the example, she revelated that WMT employees who go to the ER for healthcare cost taxpayers a bundle, while guys like Sam Walton employ armies of lawyers to protect his profits from the ravages of big gubmint.

Sorry for the side trip.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

People need to live near work, and work was developed where there was water. Still, your point is well taken that it's time for businesses to carry their own water.

Have a nice day.

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Author: sandyleelee Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414528 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 2:09 PM
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Whew.

SLL

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Author: albaby1 Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414530 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 2:25 PM
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Certainly we will help. But what sort of help?** However, I think the subsidized insurance encourages development in places where it shouldn't.

Of course it does. It's classic moral hazard. It's inherent whenever government provides assistance that mitigates the risk of doing something. The question is what government does when it has already agreed to socialize the losses. It's an issue that comes up in lots of contexts, most recently with health care.

Here, the feds are not going to abandon flood-ravaged areas. Given that commitment, then, which is the more efficient solution - require flood-proofing new development and payment of special premiums as a condition to receiving federal flood insurance, or just respond on an ad hoc basis with disaster relief? The former runs the risk of moral hazard, but the latter may end up being far more costly.

Albaby

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Author: rmhj Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414533 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 3:02 PM
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1pg: It also makes for not-rare bird strikes, engine-outs,...

Yep. Scary what a single bird can do (much less a flock of them).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549


Fortunately, airliners make pretty good gliders, and have been getting steadily better to improve their fuel economy. Nonetheless, the best-glide speed and rates of descent are rather terrifying. I guess it's a good thing that so many airline pilots fly gliders:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider (Robert Pearson)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chesley_Sullenberger

rj

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Author: BlueGrits Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414539 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 5:27 PM
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Well, it IS possible to be flooded through no fault of your own even when you live nowhere near the coastline.

The part of town I grew up in never flooded - not in Betsy or even Camille. Sure, there was some water in the yards from rain and maybe some swamp water circled around, but no homes took on water. Katrina, because of its angle to coast and the tides, put FOURTEEN FEET of water there.

In NOLA, the problem wasn't really the wind - damage from that was relatively small - but from the flooding associated with poor levees and canals designed and constructed by the Corps of Engineers. Had they been built properly, NOLA would have remained untouched and the true center of Katrina's wrath - Mississippi Coast - would have been the spotlight.

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414540 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 6:22 PM
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In NOLA, the problem wasn't really the wind - damage from that was relatively small - but from the flooding associated with poor levees and canals designed and constructed by the Corps of Engineers.

That is true. The surge was most of the problem.

Had they been built properly, NOLA would have remained untouched...

I don't think so. NOLA has enjoyed protection for a very long time from marshes and barrier islands built up from silts deposited by the Mississippi. The levee system has prevented the River from doing this for decades now, and the marshes and islands have been eroding to nothing. What used to be a levee in some places is now a sea wall, or nearly so.

Combine that with rising sea levels, and even a category 3 becomes a problem. The levees may very well have had problems (they weren't designed for a cat 5 storm striking without the marshland buffers), but they also caused part of the problem (as described above). NatGeo did an article about it before the storm, and another after the storm.

I found the predictive "before" article pretty easily: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0410/feature5/

Delta soils naturally compact and sink over time, eventually giving way to open water unless fresh layers of sediment offset the subsidence. The Mississippi's spring floods once maintained that balance, but the annual deluges were often disastrous. After a devastating flood in 1927, levees were raised along the river and lined with concrete, effectively funneling the marsh-building sediments to the deep waters of the Gulf. Since the 1950s engineers have also cut more than 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) of canals through the marsh for petroleum exploration and ship traffic. These new ditches sliced the wetlands into a giant jigsaw puzzle, increasing erosion and allowing lethal doses of salt water to infiltrate brackish and freshwater marshes.

I have the "after" article in a NatGeo at home, but can't seem to find it online. As you noted, it wasn't even a direct hit. Imagine a cat 5 scoring a direct hit...it would be even worse than what we saw in 2005. NOLA is, frankly, a lost cause. We should have cut our losses and run. Now we'll have to wait a few years (probably not more than a decade, I'd guess) for it to get whacked again. Beef up the "defenses" (but still not allow the marshes to be redeposited) and you may extend that time frame, but it's still inevitable.

Not trying to be mean or nasty. Just stating reality. NOLA will fall again. Almost certainly within my lifetime, and probably a lot sooner. Rising sea levels, subsiding land, a city mostly below sea level right next to the sea, positioned along a 'popular' hurricane route, and warmer waters fueling stronger storms. That just isn't a recipe for good things.

1poorguy

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414541 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 6:41 PM
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The former runs the risk of moral hazard, but the latter may end up being far more costly.

Someone of Loren's ilk should probably do an analysis to find out which costs more. If the insurance costs X but you encourage, as a result, growth so that you now have 2X, perhaps it is more expensive than the disaster relief at 1.5X for the non-growth scenario.

Obviously I just made those numbers up, but I don't know that we have the answer to that question. Nor is it safe to assume one answer over the other, IMO. Before we start throwing around subsidies (too late!!) we should figure out what their goal is, and whether it is cost effective.**

1poorguy

**Not just flood insurance, but also farm subsidies, oil subsidies, sugar subsidies, solar subsidies, hybrid vehicle subsidies, etc. Some may make sense (e.g. solar, IMO), some clearly do not (IMO).

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Author: DrBob2 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414546 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/10/2012 10:39 PM
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Had they been built properly, NOLA would have remained untouched...

It wasn't the building, it was the maintenance (or lack thereof). Upkeep is done by the locals, not the Corps. Money allocated for levees is easy to use for other things, and corruption means that the work that is done is shoddy.

We will probably see a repeat in the future, as the Corps has just completed a state-of-the-art system, and now the city must spend $40 million a year to keep it up.

Big bill for levee upkeep comes to New Orleans
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/big-bill-levee-upkeep-comes-16...
By the time the next hurricane season starts in June of 2013, the city will take control of much of a revamped protection system of gates, walls and armored levees that the Army Corps of Engineers has spent about $12 billion building. The corps has about $1 billion worth of work left. Engineers consider it a Rolls Royce of flood protection — comparable to systems in seaside European cities such as St. Petersburg, Venice, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Whether the infrastructure can hold is less in question than whether New Orleans can be trusted with the keys. The Army Corps estimates it will take $38 million a year to pay for upkeep, maintenance and operational costs after it's turned over to local officials....

Congressional investigations found the old Orleans Levee Board more interested in managing a casino license and two marinas than looking after levees. Inspections were ceremonial, millions of dollars were spent on a fountain and overpasses rather than on levee protection.

DB2

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Author: DrBob2 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414549 of 441193
Subject: Re: random musing on Sandy Date: 12/11/2012 8:56 AM
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Isn't global warming fun?

If it's any consolation, colder periods such as the Little Ice Age have been stormier than warmer periods.

DB2

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