Wind Hazards (1-25-05)
Wind hazards, which include hurricanes, tornadoes, and other windstorms, are threats to all 50 states, causing high levels of injuries, deaths, business interruption, and property damage. On September 15, 1999, Hurricane Floyd hit the coast of South Carolina, killing 51 people and causing $6 billion in damage. A record 384 tornadoes touched down in 19 states the week of May 4-10, 2003, resulting in 42 fatalities. In addition, federal disaster aid has risen from $3.9 billion in the 1980's to $25.4 billion today. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has estimated that if a Category 4 hurricane were to hit Miami, it would cost $80 billion in damages. On October 25 2004, President Bush signed the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act of 2004 which included authorization for a National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program for three years. The program is modeled after NEHRP and is aimed at studying the impact of wind on structures and on developing cost-effective ways to mitigate those impacts. The legislation authorizes $72.5 million over three years for this program.
For information on Hurricane Katrina, which devasted the Gulf Coast region near New Orleans on August 29, 2005, click here.
Legislation is expected to be introduced and considered by the 109th Congress in the near future. Please check back soon for updates.
In early 2003, the Wind Hazard Reduction Coalition, a group of 25 private organizations and companies, and the Wind Hazard Reduction Caucus, comprised of 34 members of Congress, worked together to create the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP), comprehensive federal program to minimize the losses due to windstorms before they occur. These groups argued that the government only invests $5 million per year to develop and promote knowledge that would significantly reduce the damage caused by wind hazards. This amount, compared to the $100 million per year invested in earthquake reduction through the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, was considered too small to adequately monitor and mitigate windstorm damages.
On March 17, 2003, Representatives Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) and Dennis Moore (D-KS) introduced H.R. 3980, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act of 2004. The stated purpose of the bill was "to achieve measurable reductions in losses of life and property from windstorms by improving our understanding of how wind impacts buildings, enhancing the scope and detail of damage data collection, and measuring the degree to which varying mitigation techniques can lessen that impact. This information will give policymakers, private industry, and individual homeowners the tools to make decisions that take windstorm vulnerability into consideration. NWIRP will improve distribution of current research findings of cost-effective and affordable practices for design and construction professionals, develop cost-effective and affordable windstorm resistant systems, develop outreach techniques for the general public, and enable the marketplace to form incentives for considering wind hazards in buildings and designs."
Then on October 6, 2004, the Senate passed H.R. 2608, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act, with unanimous consent. Included was the McCain-Nelson Amendment which effectively added H.R. 3980, the Windstorm Impact Reduction Act, onto the bill. The amended NEHRP bill was passed by the House and the bill was signed by the President on October 25, 2004. The next challenge for lawmakers is to decide how to fund the program through four different appropriations bills: Interior, VA/HUD, Homeland Security, and Commerce.
Sources: Wind Hazard Reduction Caucus, THOMAS legislative database, House Science Committee website, Wind Hazard Reduction Coalition.
Contributed by David Millar 2004 AAPG/AGI Fall Semester Intern
More information of NWIRP can be found on the Wind Hazards page for the 108th Congress
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on January 25, 2005.