Thursday, September 1, 2011
Remaining focused on Gulf Coast recovery
Six years ago this week, one of the worst natural disasters in American history made landfall along our Gulf Coast and carved a path of destruction deep into our state. Hurricane Katrina tragically took the lives of more than 1,800 people and caused billions of dollars in damage. The effects of its devastation still linger today. Those who witnessed its wrath will never forget what was lost.
Since then, communities along our Gulf Coast have worked hard to rebuild and recover. Partnerships between the government, nonprofit organizations, and businesses have helped put Mississippians back into their homes and back to work. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around the world have dedicated countless hours to restoring our coastline.
As President George W. Bush told the residents of Poplarville in 2005, “Out of this despair is going to come a vibrant coast.” That vision still holds true today.
Earlier this month, I attended the grand opening of the Cottages at Anchor Square, a new retail development in Pascagoula. These cottages were used by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) as a place of refuge for residents displaced by Katrina.
Now they house small businesses revitalizing Pascagoula’s downtown.
Projects like Anchor Square prove that Mississippians do more than persevere. We turn painful memories into positive ones.
We have made remarkable progress along our Gulf Coast in the last few years, but better policies are needed to protect against the next big storm. Hurricane Katrina’s devastation exposed a major flaw in our current flood insurance system, which millions of property owners nationwide depend on in case of a disaster. Following Katrina, disputes over wind and water damage caused unnecessary delays in settling insurance claims.
These costly disputes are a headache we can prevent in future disaster-relief efforts. Earlier this summer, I introduced the COASTAL Act to improve the ways we assess flood damage following powerful storms like Katrina. The legislation would eliminate the potential conflict of interest between the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and private insurers over wind and water claims. It would streamline the recovery process and put a long-term extension of the NFIP within reach. The flood insurance program is set to expire on Sept. 30.
Coastal communities should be able to rely on the programs designed to assist their recovery. Reforming and extending the NFIP would provide the stability that homeowners and business owners deserve as they rebuild.
Watching Hurricane Irene over the weekend was an acute reminder of the threats that coastal communities across our nation face every year. Being prepared is critical to staying safe during dangerous weather. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises coastal residents to make a disaster plan, assemble a survival kit, and get informed about evacuation procedures before the storm reaches their shores.
Whether or not Mississippi faces a hurricane this year, these precautions are worthwhile to remember as we move into the peak months of storm season. Making our communities stronger means staying vigilant and prepared.
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