On Wednesday June 29, 2005, at 2:30 p.m., in room 253 of the Russell Building, the Senate Commerce Committee's Disaster Prevention and Predication Subcommittee will hold a hearing on how effectively the National Weather Service is at predicting the impact of severe storms and what can be done to increase their accuracy. Additionally the committee will receive testimony from the private sector and state and local officials on how communities and individuals can improve the resistance of built infrastructure to natural disasters triggered by severe storms. Witnesses will be announced when available.
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Witness Panel 1
Dr. Abby SallengerOceanographerUSGS Center for Coastal & Watershed Studies
ASBURY H. SALLENGER, JR.
U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISASTER PREVENTION AND PREDICTION
JUNE 29, 2005
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you on behalf of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on inland flooding and coastal-change impacts of extreme storms. Each year, natural hazards in the United States such as earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, landslides, and volcanoes result in hundreds of lives lost and cost billions of dollars in disaster aid, disrupted commerce and destroyed public and private properties. At USGS, it is our goal to provide scientific research and analysis to help citizens, emergency managers, and policy makers decide how to react to each hazard and how to safeguard society. By collecting long-term data and information assessing past and present hazards events and by providing continuous monitoring and data collection, we hope to arrive at the place where we are able to predict these natural events and mitigate their potential impacts, providing precious time to save lives and property. By conducting research on coastal change that occurs during extreme storms, and by improving understanding of erosion and deposition that can destroy infrastructure and permanently change the coastal landscape, USGS will assist in efforts to reduce the impact these severe storms have on lives and communities. There are two major objectives of this USGS research effort. The first is to improve predictive capabilities so that, as a hurricane approaches the United States, assessments can be made of impacts to the threatened coastal setting prior to landfall. The second major objective is to provide the information and knowledge required to assess the changing vulnerability of our coastline to hurricanes for longer-term hazard planning and mitigation so that new buildings and infrastructure, particularly those being rebuilt following a storm disaster, can be sited away from hazardous areas. The 2004 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the busiest and most destructive in history. For example, Hurricane Ivan caused severe beach and dune erosion that undermined five-story oceanfront condominium towers, some of the largest buildings to fail during a hurricane in United States history. Today, after giving an overview of the USGS research program on severe storms, I will focus on lessons learned from the coastal change impacts observed last year. Research program on extreme storms As part of USGS National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards, impacts of extreme storms have been intensively investigated since the 1997-98 El Nino when severe winter extratropical storms ravaged much of the U.S. west coast, causing extensive erosion of beaches and sea cliffs and resulting in loss of property. The USGS worked cooperatively with National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to acquire airborne lidar surveys of the coast both before and after the El Nino. These data were used to test models of the interaction between storms and coasts. Since the 1997-98 El Nino, USGS has continued to work with NASA, focusing primarily on hurricane impacts in the southeast U.S., again using airborne lidar to survey the coast before and after storm impact. Airborne lidar survey systems utilize the Global Positioning System (GPS) and a laser mounted in an aircraft to measure ground topography. If the water is clear enough, some lidar systems can penetrate the ocean and measure shallow seafloor bathymetry. The before- and after-storm surveys gathered as part of USGS research are compared to detect changes in the elevation and configuration of the ground, changes that occur during a storm due to erosion and deposition. These data are used to test and validate predictive models that can forecast coastal change prior to hurricane landfall. The data are also used to develop a quantitative means to assess the vulnerability of U.S. coasts to future extreme storms. Currently, USGS is developing the means to assess: The location of potential breaches that sever barrier islands and evacuation routes during hurricanes. Most of the East and Gulf of Mexico mainland coasts of the United States are protected from the open ocean by a nearly continuous string of barrier islands. These long, thin strips of sand are, in places, low-lying (less than 9 feet in elevation) and subject to being inundated and cut during extreme storms. In fact, most of the present inlets through barrier islands in the southeast United States, which allow boats and ships to transit between ocean and mainland ports, were cut naturally during hurricanes. Most recently, breaches severed barrier islands during Hurricane Isabel on the North Carolina coast in 2003, on the southwest coast of Florida during Hurricane Charley in 2004, and during Hurricane Ivan on the Alabama and Florida panhandle coasts in 2004. Results of USGS research indicate that these catastrophic island breaching events occur where storm processes intersect with low-lying topography. USGS research also suggests that the underlying geology may contribute to the vulnerability of barrier islands to inlet formation. Extreme beach and dune erosion that lowers the elevation of barrier islands, making the islands, and the back bays they shelter, more suceptible to inundation by storm surge. During extreme storms, wind can push water against the coast, raising sea level in a storm surge. This allows waves to attack beaches and dunes that are normally beyond their reach. During Hurricane Ivan, Santa Rosa Island, offshore of Pensacola, Florida, was reduced in elevation an average of approximately 3 feet; however, in places, the reduction was as much as eight feet where new breaches opened. This reduction in elevation allows more water to be driven across the island during a severe storm, raising the storm surge in the back bays higher than would have been possible had the dunes remained intact. Thus, up-to-date and accurate information of coastal elevation, and understanding of the coastal response to storm processes, is critical to providing accurate forecasts of hurricane impacts. The 2004 Hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne In a cooperative effort between USGS, NASA, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the impact zones of the four Atlantic hurricanes that made landfall in the United States in 2004 were surveyed with airborne lidar and photography both before and after landfall of each storm. Initial results for each hurricane can be found on the USGS World Wide Web site (http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/hurricanes ). Pre-storm surveys were combined with models of storm processes and coastal response to assess vulnerability of the threatened coast prior to landfall. After landfall, pre- and post-storm surveys were compared to quantify change and showed that coastal response was unique for each storm, depending on characteristics of both the storm and the shoreline setting impacted. For example, the swath of hurricane-force winds associated with Hurricane Charley was narrow. Major coastal-change impacts were limited to several tens of miles of shoreline near landfall, where a breach, 1,500 feet wide, opened through North Captiva Island, Florida. In contrast, Hurricane Frances was a larger, weaker storm that caused moderate coastal erosion extending for nearly 100 miles along the Florida south-central east coast. However, Hurricane Frances’ greatest legacy may have been in making the coastline more vulnerable to erosion from Hurricane Jeanne, which followed the same storm track several weeks later. Surviving structures left exposed on the brink of eroded dunes following Hurricane Frances in Vero Beach and Floraton, Florida, were later destroyed during Hurricane Jeanne. The most extensive coastal change observed during the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season occurred during Hurricane Ivan on the Alabama and Florida Panhandle coasts. On average, the shoreline retreated 40 feet during the storm. In Gulf Shores, Alabama, where the storm’s strongest winds made landfall, the relatively low-lying barrier islands were completely inundated by storm surge. The sea-level difference between the Gulf of Mexico and back bays drove a strong landward current that transported sand across the island and opened a new inlet. In contrast, several miles to the east in Orange Beach, Alabama, where land elevations were higher, the response was dune erosion. In places, the vertical scour associated with dune retreat approached nine feet and undermined structures including several five-story condominium towers that had been built on top of the dunes. These are some of the largest buildings to be destroyed by hurricane impact in United States history. Assessments of storm impacts prior to hurricane landfall Forty-eight hours prior to Hurricane Ivan’s landfall, the USGS posted on its extreme-storm web site an experimental product that showed the vulnerability of the threatened coast to change. This assessment was based on the difference between worst-case storm-surge elevations, calculated by NOAA using computer models, and high-resolution coastal elevations, measured with airborne laser mapping. For each location along the coast, the posted maps showed where Ivan’s worst-case storm surge would exceed coastal elevations and submerge barrier islands as if they were shoals. At these locations, water level differences would drive strong currents across the islands, changing their form and undermining buildings and infrastructure. The coastal change during Hurricane Ivan measured with airborne lidar was later found to be consistent with USGS assessments of coastal vulnerability made prior to the storm’s landfall. The future The unusual failures of large, oceanfront buildings during Hurricane Ivan may be because southeast U.S. coastal communities have not been severely tested by hurricane-induced erosion until recently. Between 1966 and 1990, when southeast coastal developments grew dense, only two major hurricanes made landfall along the east coast or the peninsula of Florida - most developments survived unscathed. However, recent research on decadal scale changes in hurricane activity suggests that the Atlantic Basin has re-entered an active hurricane period similar to that of the period 1941 - 1965 when seventeen major hurricanes made U.S. landfall. It is likely that this active period will persist for decades. Hence, the loss of multi-story buildings during Hurricane Ivan may be a warning of what is to come along our hurricane threatened coasts. The USGS, working with our partners, will continue to develop extreme storm vulnerability assessment methodologies and provide these assessments of coastal change to user agencies. Several weeks ago when Tropical Storm Arlene threatened the Alabama and Florida panhandle coasts - the same area where Hurricane Ivan made landfall nine months before - USGS provided NOAA storm surge modelers with assessments of dune erosion within the forecast impact zone. The modelers were concerned that barrier island elevations had been lowered during Hurricane Ivan, which would allow more water to be driven across the islands, resulting in higher surge in estuaries than their models would account for. The USGS provided dune erosion data and assessments that were incorporated into NOAA storm-surge models and were used to help forecast potential flooding from Tropical Storm Arlene. Ongoing data collection efforts, combined with existing models, provide the basis for a collaborative effort with other Federal partners, such as National Weather Service (NWS), to assess the likely impacts of coastal storms. Both pre-storm assessments of dune and beach erosion and post-storm damage assessments, provided in a timely manner, support the efforts of Federal and local emergency planners and responders. These activities are also an integral part of persistent research efforts to better understand and assess the vulnerability of U.S. shorelines to coastal change impacts from extreme storms. Integration of scientific information and coastal change models developed by USGS with the meteorological models of impending storm processes from NWS will support more timely and accurate forecasts of the location and type of coastal response to severe storm events. Inland flooding from excessive rainfall As population and development continue to increase in coastal areas, more people and property are vulnerable to hurricane threat. However, coastal residents and visitors are not the only ones vulnerable to the ravages of hurricanes and extreme storms. Hurricane winds and waves impacting the coastal zone are often accompanied by extreme rainfall that can contribute to local and regional flooding of coastal and inland areas. Flooding is the most frequent natural disaster. During the 20th century, floods arising from extreme storms, both tropical and extra-tropical, were the worst natural disaster in the United States in terms of number of lives lost and property damaged. Flooding from extreme storms can occur at any time of the year, in any part of the country, and at any time of the day. Property damage, including inundation by sediment-laden water, demolished buildings, and erosion that undermines bridge foundations and footings leading to the collapse of structures, results in approximately $5B in losses per year. Hurricanes and tropical storms can be especially dangerous and destructive as they move inland from coastal areas. For example, floods from remnants of Hurricane Camille in 1969 killed hundreds of people throughout Appalachia. In 1999, eastern North Carolina endured record rainfall and two months of continuous flooding from Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, and Irene. Notable, the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season was the most costly on record -- $42B. Widespread rainfall amounts over 6 inches caused extensive flooding. In Florida, USGS field crews obtained some of the highest flow measurements ever recorded. This flooding was compounded by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan less than 2 weeks later. The USGS, in cooperation with NWS River Forecast Centers and others, is making significant progress in development of new tools and techniques to address flood risk. The following are examples of USGS research and modeling activities relative to inland flooding: · Prioritizing Streamgaging Network investments and Improved Streamflow Information Delivery. The USGS managed streamgage network includes 3200 gages that support NWS streamflow forecasts and flood predictions to calibrate their streamflow forecast models and make flood predictions. The USGS is working to improve delivery of streamgage information to meet this and other national needs for streamflow information. As part of that effort, USGS is installing new high data rate transmitters to improve real-time data access, flood-hardening streamgages critical to the National Weather Service for flood predictions, and building a robust data storage and processing system to ensure reliable and timely streamflow information delivery to users of the information. · Development of a real-time flood inundation mapping capability using forecasts from the NWS River Forecast Centers. Emergency managers need to know what is (or shortly will be) under water when a flood is occurring. Inundation maps help emergency managers plan evacuation routes, deploy critical resources, understand the magnitude of events, and, in general, respond quickly to save lives and property. In creating real-time inundation maps, forecast flood hydrographs are routed through lidar-derived elevation models of reaches of a river with multi-dimensional flow models that allow predictions of the timing, depth, velocity, and impact of flood waters for any location in the mapped floodplain. These inundation forecast maps can be posted on the worldwide web hours to days prior to the arrival of the flood. Near-real-time simulation and internet-based delivery of forecast-flood inundation maps using two-dimensional hydraulic modeling has been developed through a pilot study of the Snoqualmie River, Washington (see USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4251, 36p.) · Development of a map-based Web application, “StreamStats,” to obtain streamflow and flood statistics. “StreamStats” provides streamflow information for all locations in the Nation, and specifically for ungaged sites, by using statistical models and established hydrological relationships. This application results in major cost savings by reducing the time needed to obtain streamflow estimates for a site from an average of about a day to only a few minutes. “StreamStats” is currently available for 6 states. By the end of fiscal year 2005, information from 12 states will be included in “StreamStats.” · Development of new technologies to measure flood water levels that heretofore were too dangerous or practically impossible to measure. Accurate determination of the magnitude of floods is essential for establishment of flood-frequency relationships, required for long-term hazard assessment and design of critical infrastructure. These technologies include hydroacoustic current profilers and totally non-contact methods to measure river discharge from the ground or the air (see http://or.water.usgs.gov/hydro21/index.shtml). These technologies keep personnel out of high flowing streams and increase the margin of safety when taking streamflow measurements in hazardous conditions. USGS will continue to work with partners at the Federal, State, and local level to assist in efforts to reduce the impact that severe storms have on lives and communities. Natural hazards, such as hurricanes and inland flooding, will always be with us and may be difficult to predict. With USGS science, however, we are striving to prevent these natural hazards from becoming natural disasters. Our efforts in hazards monitoring and long-term data and information collection from past and present hazard events is not simply a scientific research endeavor - - it is a matter of public safety. Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am happy to answer any questions that you and Members of the Subcommittee may have.
Mr. Dennis McCarthyDirector of Climate, Water and Weather ServicesNational Weather Service
Mr. Max MayfieldDirectorNational Hurricane Center
Witness Panel 2
Dr. Tim ReinholdVice President for EngineeringInstitute for Business and Home Safety
Testimony to the Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the United States Senate
June 29, 2005
Timothy A. Reinhold, PhD, PE(Colorado)
Vice President of Engineering
Institute for Business & Home Safety
Chairman DeMint and members of the Subcommittee, my name is Tim Reinhold, and I am the Vice President of Engineering for the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), which is a nonprofit initiative of the U.S. property and casualty insurance industry with a mission to reduce deaths, injuries, property damage, economic losses and human suffering caused by natural disasters. We are an organization dedicated to natural hazard loss reduction, and very much involved in windstorm impact reduction in our related efforts in: · Research · Communications · Outreach · Building code development and adoption · Data collection and analysis · Promotion of incentives for mitigation and disaster resistant construction It is clear that this Committee and IBHS have significant areas of common interest. Over the past decades, we have seen dramatic drops in the loss of life in hurricanes due to better warning and evacuation. However, we have also seen dramatic increases in property losses as our nation concentrates more and more of its population and wealth along our vulnerable coastlines. With this rapid growth in population, we are certainly not immune to a large loss of life in a future event. Many experts are concerned that a fast developing and fast moving storm could produce a large loss of life among people trapped in traffic jams associated with attempts to evacuate too many people in too short a time. To counter this risk and the dramatic increases in property losses, we desperately need to build stronger and safer homes and businesses so that coastal inhabitants who are not in vulnerable structures or in inundation areas will not need to evacuate and so that the resiliency of our communities is dramatically improved. Ultimately, we are not likely to be able to provide enough evacuation capacity and warning time to handle the demands, if population growth continues unabated, and many would argue that we have already passed the point where mass evacuation is viable in a large number of vulnerable areas. The committee has asked me to focus my testimony on the role of the insurance industry in reducing the exposure of individuals and businesses to the impact of windstorms, IBHS’s work to promote disaster resistant technologies, any barriers to the adoption of these technologies, and a discussion and presentation of any cost-benefit analysis of disaster resistant technologies. The Role of the Insurance Industry First and foremost, the insurance industry provides the primary mechanism for sharing risk and accumulating resources needed to help individuals and businesses recover from the impact of windstorms. It is clear from the experience of the 2004 hurricane season that the insurance industry has come a long way since the upheavals caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In the aftermath of Andrew, a number of companies or at least their Florida subsidiaries were rendered insolvent and several companies were bankrupt. In 2004, despite the fact that one in five Floridians filed a claim (three times the number of claims filed after Hurricane Andrew) and total claims exceeding $20 billion (about the same insured losses as Hurricane Andrew, in 2004 dollars), only one company went bankrupt. A significant reason for this improved performance is related to the better understanding of all of the issues surrounding responding to major and widespread windstorm impacts, to better preparation of catastrophe teams, and to better modeling of the risks. The improved modeling offers exciting possibilities for support of windstorm mitigation efforts. This modeling is occurring within the federal sector, through FEMA’s HAZUS-MH, and within the private sector, through efforts of various modeling companies that provide services to the insurance and reinsurance companies. A major focus of the modeling efforts in both the federal and private sectors has been on predicting damage and losses for large portfolios of property and infrastructure. This helps emergency managers plan and organize response efforts, secure needed supplies and stage resources. It helps insurers in quantifying their risks to help them make better business decisions. The loss estimates produced by these catastrophe models are also used by insurers to help them set reserves, determine the need for reinsurance and provide input for setting appropriate premiums. Real time analyses also help insurers plan and stage their resources to facilitate rapid response through adjusting and settling claims in the days and weeks following a major windstorm disaster. The laws of large numbers have made the applications listed above a somewhat easier task than the prediction of the performance of an individual structure and the associated benefits of a specific mitigation measure. Nevertheless, the modelers are tackling the individual property and mitigation issue and making progress in their predictive capabilities for these cases. Insurers are using the results of these models along with available post-storm evaluations to negotiate rates and incentives for mitigation measures in Florida policies. In 2000, the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association (now known as Citizens Property Insurance) increased their rates dramatically (200-300%) as they introduced a class plan whereby buildings insured through the wind pool could be inspected for wind resistant features and thereby qualify for mitigation related discounts. Under this plan, homes can qualify for up to a 70% discount if they contain all the mitigation features considered by the program. This case clearly shows the kind of dynamics at work in this process. As risks are better defined, more vulnerable properties receive less favorable treatment and less vulnerable properties receive more favorable treatment. Insurance policies issued in Florida currently consider mitigation features as a factor in the rating of a home for insurance. With the implementation of the latest version of the Florida Building Code in 2002, all insurers in the state were required to recognize the hurricane resistive features of the codes in future rate filings in the state. The result is lower insurance premiums for homes that are built in accordance with this stronger new building code as compared to older more vulnerable homes. The wind resistive features that insurers are required to give credit for include: opening protection (storm shutters), roof to wall connections, roof deck connections and roof covering type. In addition to Florida, the Texas Department of Insurance mandates insurance discounts for homeowners that have impact resistant roofing products installed on their homes in this hail prone state. In the Dallas, TX, area, consumers can see as much as a 25-30% decrease in their premiums for using these products on their roofs. Note that because of the regulated nature of rates in nearly all states, this is a process that is negotiated between individual companies and the regulators. It must be emphasized that insurance related incentives are only one of the ways to promote better construction and mitigation of existing buildings. In general, it is hard to motivate homeowners to spend thousands of dollars on upgrades or retrofits to save hundreds of dollars a year on insurance. Where I used to live in Clemson, South Carolina, a reduction of my entire insurance premium would not have been enough financial incentive for me to retrofit my house. When I re-roofed my house in Clemson, I did strengthen my roof, but I did it for reasons other than a cold fiscally based benefit-cost calculation. To be effective, incentives need to go beyond those offered by or required of the insurance industry. Buildings that survive windstorms unscathed are a benefit to their communities. People can stay in their homes, businesses can remain open and people can continue to go about their lives with minimal disruption. These people are also likely to not be victims, and will not require any government assistance to recover from a disaster since their impact would be minimized. Because of the far reaching effects of mitigation, IBHS believes that incentives for windstorm mitigation need to go beyond just insurance and include things like tax breaks, mortgage rate or fee incentives, and incentives from businesses within the community. We need to adequately recognize the role that wind resistant construction of homes and businesses play to keep the community alive and well throughout these events. If homes are destroyed, then workers will not be able to come to work and if businesses are destroyed, then workers will not have employment to go to. The interconnections run deep and it is critical that we address strengthening of all elements of the fabric of our communities. Fully one quarter of small businesses that close following a disaster do not reopen. Some communities such as Homestead, Florida, are just now recovering from Hurricane Andrew. IBHS Works to Promote Windstorm Disaster Resistance The majority of IBHS activities relating to windstorm impact reduction involve applying research and development that has been conducted by universities, federal agencies and construction industry related trade associations. The goal of these activities is to understand, communicate and implement the latest knowledge on windstorm mitigation into the work of the organization. These activities include: · Maintaining a series of consumer focused guides and brochures that relate to a wide range of natural disasters including windstorms. · Maintaining a website with publicly available information on natural disaster mitigation, including windstorm damage mitigation. · Developing two interactive web-based programs to help home and business owners develop customized pre-disaster mitigation plans and post-disaster recovery plans, as well as identify home structural improvements. · Serve as a technical resource for our member insurance companies to help them better understand technical aspects of windstorm mitigation · Support the improvement of building codes with regard to natural disaster damage mitigation on behalf of our member insurance companies. · Support the adoption of the latest model building codes at the state level and working to ensure that they are not weakened by local amendments. · Participate in the development of the ASCE 7 wind provisions that are the basis for wind loads in the current model building codes. · Establish statewide coalitions for natural hazard loss reduction that incorporates land use planning emphasis in mitigation activities among multiple state and local government agencies. Over the past few years, IBHS has worked with a number of universities including Clemson University, the University of Florida, Florida International University, Texas Tech University, Louisiana State University, and Colorado State University to stay abreast of current research and information. Similarly, IBHS works with FEMA on flood and wind related retrofit issues as well as the Department of Energy through Oak Ridge National Labs as a part of the Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues (RICOWI). IBHS also has working relationships with several construction and testing related trade associations including APA-the Engineered Wood Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association, and Underwriters Laboratories. IBHS is a strong and consistent advocate of the adoption and enforcement of national model building codes and standards. We work with our member companies, emergency managers, building officials, civic leaders and code officials to build coalitions that will endorse and support the adoption of statewide building codes. We understand the power and effectiveness of a strong well enforced building code to protect homes and businesses. We seek to establish incentives for states and communities to adopt the latest model building codes, without local amendments that would weaken the disaster mitigation measures. The federal government can help incentivize the statewide building code adoption process by increasing pre- and post-disaster mitigation funds for those states that do adopt up-to-date model building codes and promote adequate enforcement of these codes. However, we also understand that the building code is the minimum capacity required (the poorest quality home you can legally build) and we are actively promoting code + construction through our Fortified…for safer living® new construction program. This program is small but growing. We recently entered into agreements for a development of 600 to 800 homes in the panhandle of Florida, and another development of approximately 60 homes in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, area where every home will be a Fortified…for safer living® home. One of our member companies is planning to file a rate reduction for the Fortified homes in South Carolina. During the 2004 hurricane season, IBHS provided technical support to Clemson University, the University of Florida and Florida International University in the deployment of instruments to measure wind speeds and wind pressures on houses. This data has provided much needed surface measurements of wind speeds in areas impacted by the storms. We have actively sought to bring this information and the wind field analyses of NOAA and HAZUS-MH related wind field modeling to the attention of the public so that they better understand the magnitude of the wind event they likely experienced. We continually encounter a public that is convinced that they experienced the peak wind of the storm at their business or home location, while data and modeling would suggest substantially lower winds. This understanding of the event is a critical factor that can help property owners make judicious decisions about future mitigation activities. In the aftermath of the hurricanes of 2004, IBHS participated in FEMA Mitigation Assessment Teams and is helping to prepare reports on Hurricanes Charley and Ivan. IBHS also worked with the University of Florida on a Florida Department of Community Affairs (Florida DCA) funded project to conduct a stratified statistical sample based study of the relative performance of buildings built under the 2001 Florida Building Code versus ones built under the Standard Building Code between 1994 and the adoption of the 2001 Florida Building Code. IBHS is analyzing building permits for reconstruction in Charlotte County, Florida following Hurricane Charley to assess the relative performance and reconstruction costs of buildings built in different eras and to different standards. IBHS has also been awarded funding from the Florida DCA to develop a web-based interactive retrofit guide for homeowners. We are working with builders, state and national experts to develop that tool. In addition to the applied research related activities above, IBHS does occasionally get involved in performing and funding of research. One such case involved IBHS providing match funding to Clemson University to conduct full scale, destructive testing of houses in Horry County, SC. This project involved testing actual homes before and after hurricane retrofits were applied to determine how much strength was being added to the structure using various retrofit techniques. The houses were made available because they were bought out by FEMA following flooding during Hurricane Floyd. Primary funding was provided by the South Carolina Department of Insurance. IBHS is currently funding research being conducted jointly with a Florida home builder to investigate ways to retrofit soffit materials that suffered widespread failures during the hurricanes of 2004. IBHS also works with other partners from time to time to fund research studies that estimate the savings provided through the implementation of new and stronger building codes in coastal environments. Three such reports have been prepared over the past four years by Applied Research Associates in Raleigh, NC, for analysis of the impacts of new codes along the North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas coastlines. These reports point to the dramatic savings over time that can be achieved through the use of stronger building codes. The results of this research are used to help validate and refine the mitigation messages that we use at IBHS. We understand how expensive it can be to properly retrofit an existing home, and seek to create a demand for disaster resistance in new construction that will exceed the desire for carpet and appliance upgrades. IBHS works with federal, state and local governments a couple of different ways to support windstorm impact reduction. The first is through the distribution of our consumer related materials through state and local governments. Oftentimes, this is accomplished through providing materials to local grassroots style organizations to help get the work out locally. Two notable partners include South Carolina Sea Grant and North Carolina Sea Grant. The second way is participating in the building code adoption process on the state level. Over the past few years, IBHS has taken an active role in wind prone states including North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Louisiana and New York. Following the hurricanes of 2004, FEMA and member companies distributed large numbers of IBHS pamphlets that provided guidance on the claims process. Members indicated that information calls to their catastrophe call-in centers dropped after the guides were distributed. Barriers to Adoption of Windstorm Resistance The main obstacles to widespread implementation of windstorm mitigation techniques in new and existing structures relate directly to issues of complacency, education, research and cost. Throughout the country, homeowners are, in general, complacent about their exposure to extreme windstorms or believe that there is little that can be done to provide protection from the most intense storms where people frequently are killed or injured. People who live in central Florida have typically said that the real risk is in South Florida, or the Panhandle. Likewise, builders and legislators who live and work in the Florida Panhandle think that they are protected by a shelf of cooler water off their coast and that the real risk in the Keys or in the Carolinas. A major problem is that the typical return periods between major storms is such that people do not think it will happen to them. Because of this low perception of threat from windstorms, consumers are less likely to spend the money required to make their homes more resistant to windstorms – especially when they can spend their money on upgrades they can enjoy everyday like granite counter tops and hardwood floors. The competition to spend extra money rarely ends with the mitigation winning out. The lack of data and research on the benefits of mitigation and strong codes also poses a barrier to the implementation of mitigation measures. The data that insurers collect as a part of the claims process following a major wind event relates mainly to documenting the damage that the policyholder needs compensation for and making sure the insured is compensated according to the policy coverage in a timely manner. The role of the insurance adjuster in such a scenario is to document, estimate and pay or arrange for payment of covered expenses. Typically there are extreme time constraints placed on the adjustors and the companies they represent to review properties and act on claims in a short time frame. Given these responsibilities, it becomes too onerous (particularly in a catastrophe when large amounts of disaster victims need to begin their recovery) to expect that the adjuster would be able to determine and document the actual causes of loss and identify mitigation measures that could have prevented or reduced the damage. Because of this, insurance data alone provides little insight into the impact that wind mitigation can have on total losses. In order to produce meaningful data to assess the effect of windstorm mitigation activities, several things need to be known. First, the actual wind speed that the building was exposed to needs to be known. Then, details as to what parts of the building failed due to excessive wind force need to be documented and most probable causes of initiation of failure need to be identified. By comparing the wind speed with a careful study of the failures, researchers can begin to make credible quantifications of the potential benefits of windstorm mitigation. Unfortunately, many of the NOAA Automatic Surface Observing Systems (ASOS) lose power and stop recording or reporting wind speed data during severe wind storms. There is a clear national need to harden these systems and provide backup power so that NOAA and all those affected by these storms have better data on surface winds in various areas impacted by the storms. In the interim, to get better data on surface winds, IBHS works closely with hurricane researchers from a number of universities. As mentioned earlier, teams from Clemson University, the University of Florida, Texas Tech University and Florida International University have for several years now deployed mobile wind data acquisition towers in front of land-falling hurricanes to provide “ground truth” data on wind speeds so that these speeds can be correlated with building damage. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 was the first time that these mobile towers were equipped with cellular modems that allowed for uploading of wind speed data in real time to the Internet. This information was relayed to NOAA and provided them with real time ground truth data. These systems were active in all of the 2004 hurricanes. For 2005, NOAA is making access to the GOES satellite available for these instruments so that data can be reported in a more reliable manner and better integrated into NOAA’s analyses. Post storm analyses have also been alluded to earlier in this testimony. IBHS is working with builders, state building officials, building departments, university researchers, and property appraisers to accumulate data from a wide variety of sources and to seek insights into the merits of stronger building codes and mitigation efforts. This work is ongoing. A number of barriers to building stronger and safer also relate to the adoption and enforcement of building codes and standards. First, a large number of local communities throughout the nation have not adopted any building codes and standards for residential construction. Second, a large majority of local communities have not adopted the latest model building codes without any local amendments that weaken the model provisions. Third, while there is more widespread adoption of model building codes and standards for commercial properties, there are again many local jurisdictions where code adoption is non-existent or woefully out of date. Uniform and strong enforcement is another key issue, even in local communities that have adopted the latest standards. This lack of uniformity in the baseline for construction of homes and businesses means that the performance of buildings is less predictable and the levels of risk vary dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We find that responsible builders have difficulties competing in areas where there are no building codes, which leads to building to the lowest denominator. Furthermore, we see national builders building differently in areas with identical design wind speeds, simply because the local code adopted in a particular area does not require the same level of construction as the national model code being enforced in the other area. All too often, the local building code is treated as the maximum rather than the minimum. While issues of states’ rights and local authority generally keep federal agencies from trying to mandate building codes except for federal buildings, there are opportunities for the federal government to initiate a number of incentives that would encourage states to adopt and enforce statewide building codes without local amendments that weaken the minimum requirements. FEMA could use the adoption and enforcement of statewide building codes as criteria for providing additional pre- and post-disaster mitigation funds to states. Federal mortgage agencies could provide lower interest rates or lower fees for mortgages on properties built to the latest building codes and standards. Finally, many of the test and evaluation methods available for assessing the windstorm performance and durability of materials, components and systems fall short in reproducing the true nature of the loads and effects of severe windstorms and/or the effects of environmental factors on aging and associated degradation of windstorm resistance. Federal agencies can play an important role in funding research and developing facilities that will allow the more realistic simulation of windstorm loads and effects and in the development of tools and facilities for assessing the effects of aging. Some efforts along these lines have been supported through the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) through research and grants initiated by the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the National Science Foundation. Much more work is needed. One IBHS member company recently donated $400,000 to Florida International University to create a new windstorm simulation facility capable of testing actual building components and systems in a realistic wind and wind-driven rain environment. IBHS staff are assisting with the development of this facility. Benefit-Cost Analyses of Disaster Resistant Technologies As indicated earlier in this testimony, IBHS with partners has funded several benefit-cost studies for specific building code adoption issues in Florida, North Carolina and Texas. These studies have clearly demonstrated the positive benefit-cost ratios of the particular provisions under consideration. We are aware of a study conducted by Texas A&M that evaluated the benefit-cost ratios for specific individual provisions, combinations of provisions and the entire code that related to the proposed adoption of a Texas Department of Insurance Wind Resistant Construction Code. The analysis showed that the benefit-cost ratios for various individual provisions varied significantly depending on home size and wind climate but that the benefit-cost ratios tended to increase and stabilize as the suite of provisions became more complete in addressing the most common sources of losses. For individual provisions, the benefit-cost ratios ranged from less than 1.0 to as high as 60 depending on the building size and windstorm intensity. For adoption of the entire code, the benefit-cost ratios were typically in the range of 4 to 7, meaning for every additional dollar spent on increased construction costs, losses were reduced by 4 to 7 dollars over the expected life of the property. FEMA has funded an independent national benefit-cost study of its mitigation expenditures. This study was contracted to the Multi-hazard Mitigation Council (MMC) of the National Institute for Building Sciences (NIBS). The MMC hired the Applied Technology Council (ATC) to conduct the independent study and the ATC report is in the final review stages within the MMC. I represent IBHS on the MMC and have been involved in the review of the ATC report. While the report is still going through the final review stages and I cannot be precise in the numbers that will be finally reported, I can say that my assessment is that with one exception, the study is conservative in its assumptions and still shows a positive benefit-cost ratio for both the nation as a whole and for the federal treasury. The one potentially non-conservative aspect is the assessment of the number of deaths avoided by tornado shelters constructed with partial funding from mitigation grants. However, even if the number of deaths avoided is reduced by an order of magnitude, the benefit-cost ratio for the wind related mitigation measures is still positive. With this reduction in deaths avoided, we expect that the conservative benefit-cost ratio for all the FEMA funded mitigation measures will be on the order of 3, both for the nation as a whole and directly for the federal treasury. The types of modeling tools needed to conduct benefit-cost studies in the area of windstorm mitigation have been improving in recent years. With the data that is being gleaned from the hurricanes of 2004, there should be significant new opportunities to calibrate and validate these models. The time is ripe for a major effort to conduct benefit-cost studies to assess the value of adopting and enforcing model building codes and standards, and for building to code + levels of protection from natural and man made hazards. Summary Windstorms and other natural disasters happen every year in the United States, and impact thousands of homeowners and businesses. Yet we do know how to build homes and commercial structures so that impacts from natural disasters are significantly reduced. Ongoing research teaches us more every year, and ongoing communication and education to the public has the potential to reduce losses every year. All of the stakeholders can contribute to the creation of a climate where hazard resistant construction is valued and demanded and where a myriad of incentives are offered that will encourage local communities and states to build hazard resistant communities that become known for their resiliency in the face of severe windstorms or other natural and manmade hazards. There are clear opportunities for the federal government to support research and the removal of barriers to the development of hazard resistant construction. We believe that a good way would be to create incentives for states to adopt and enforce statewide model building codes and standards. NOAA and other agency support for wind field analyses that better communicate expected winds across regions impacted by severe windstorms will help with public communication of risks and experience. We are also interested in partnering with federal agencies to conduct benefit-cost studies for building codes and natural hazard mitigation measures. Appropriation of new funds in FY 06 and beyond to support the National Windstorm Hazard Reduction Program, that was authorized as part of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, will further the IBHS goal of making communities safer from coast to coast.
Mr. Bill WalshDirector of Meteorology and Chief MetereologistWCSC Live 5 News
SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION
Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction
Remarks by Bill Walsh
First, thank you very much for inviting me to come up and talk about disaster prevention and prediction, in particular, when it comes to hurricanes. I’ve been a broadcast meteorologist in Charleston, South Carolina for 19 years this summer and have guided our residents through many hurricanes including one of the bellwethers, Hurricane Hugo in 1989 with 22 feet of storm surge water and 135 mph winds. Other noted storms include Hurricane Floyd in 1999 where hundreds of thousands were caught in a traffic jam that some call the “Fifteen Hour Drive To Nowhere….or The Floyd Fiasco.” Then there was last year. Four MAJOR hurricanes strike Florida, billions of dollars in damage and mass evacuations. South Carolina was also affected by those storms with tornado damage and one, Charlie, actually making a second landfall just up the road from our TV station. So, the threat is there and will always be. I’m going to talk today about three things. Lessons learned from past storms and disasters, Getting the word out and the partnership between media and the national weather service, and recommendations on what strategies are working to protect our citizens from mother nature’s wrath. Lessons Learned: We spent over 60 hours covering Hurricane Hugo’s approach to South Carolina, but had no idea how long our coverage would have to last after the storm. With no power for up to three weeks in some places, television and radio were the voices in the darkness. All the stations in Charleston, ours included, dedicated two weeks of continuous coverage to the aftermath of this giant storm. Our simulcast on radio was the key to that information flow. When people had no television, battery powered radio was how people got their news. Radio was and is our partner and with the size of our news staff and power of the radio station, we were able to bring the people the news they needed. We learned that storm coverage is critical as a storm approaches for saving lives and that it is just as vital after a storm, sometimes for weeks, to deliver needed information for the public from local, state and national officials. Hurricane Floyd also taught a tough lesson to everyone along the Southeast coast of our state and nation. Evacuations are complex and take good planning and good logistics. That evacuation was a disaster in itself because of a failed plan and poor execution. People in our state sat on highways for literally 10 to 15 hours with no way to exit, no place to rest and were left with a bad taste in their mouths for this failure. From that though, our state learned and listened. Our new Governor, Mark Sanford, himself a coastal resident, brought together a team of people including highway patrol officials, DOT officials, along with members of the media including myself to create a plan that would get people safely away from the coast and invest in preparation. This new plan includes partnerships with local governments and the media. It includes video feeds of our state’s most primary and secondary roads. Car Counters that measure the traffic flows are also active and will be available on the web for citizens to actually look at the busy spots. One of the most important pieces to this new plan is the lane reversal operation which was drilled and tested before hurricane season and actually put into effect last year for Hurricane Charlie. Also, small things like keeping exits open for people to take rests or alter their course and predeployed road message signs for traffic updates along with port-a-potties for emergencies. Information flow to the people is key to making all this work and the partnership with the state’s media outlets gives officials a vehicle to get the word out. FLOYD was a critical lesson learned, but from it we now have new leadership and a plan that has been proven to work. As a member of the Air Force Reserve, we always talk about readiness and this crosses over into storm preparation and planning at all levels; national, state and local. Another lesson was the slow FEMA response to Hurricane Hugo. From that, FEMA has undergone many changes, but now is a fast responder to people that may be left with nothing but their lives. Getting the word out. Today I’m happy to report to you that there is no better relationship, in my opinion, between the media and the fabulous people at the National Weather Service. The partnership between our voices carries to the citizen the word of warning when severe weather and hurricanes are going to strike. There is no place on the planet that has a better warning system for people to prepare and get ready for a possible weather disaster. The weather service forecast offices, National Hurricane Center and the Storm Prediction Center are vital to our nation’s efforts to defend against killer storms. The media is vital to get that message out and does so, 24 hours a day. We in the media spend millions of dollars every year on technology to protect people and show them when danger is there. That technology includes computer models, Doppler radar systems, and instant crawl text systems and so on. There has been some talk lately about fines levied by the FCC for stations that did not have closed captioning for the hearing impaired during severe weather events. It must be noted, however, that stations make a huge effort and investment in equipment to inform the public. Severe weather happens in an instant and television responds along with the national weather service with the warnings and the graphics to show where the danger is. We are responsible to all our viewers, including the hearing impaired. It should be recognized that while closed captioning is a wonderful tool we all use, the FCC should also note that the full screen graphics and maps along with the crawling text at the bottom of the screen, is clearly another source for those viewers to read the information and see where the danger is when a closed caption may be unavailable because of technical or other reasons. Finally, strategies that work are rather simple. Good planning, Good dedicated people at all levels of government and media as well as a citizen ready to act when the word is given. We in the media are responsible for getting the word out. Our partnership the weather service and state officials is just that….a partnership. Together we have seen what works and what doesn’t work. We in television weather focus on informing the public with the best technology to back us up and a strong partnership with our friends at the National Weather Service. Together people are well informed and lives are saved.
Dr. Marc L. LevitanDirectorLouisiana State University Hurricane Center
Statement of Dr. Marc L. Levitan
Director, Louisiana State University – Hurricane Center,
Charles P. Siess, Jr. Associate Professor of Civil and
Louisiana State University and
President, American Association for Wind Engineering
On behalf of the LSU Hurricane Center
American Association for Wind Engineering
American Society of Civil Engineers
Wind Hazards Reduction Coalition
Before the Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States Senate
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am Dr. Marc Levitan, I am the Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center and the Charles P. Siess Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Louisiana State University. I am also the elected President of the American Association for Wind Engineering and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. I am appearing today on behalf of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, the American Association for Wind Engineering, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Wind Hazards Reduction Coalition. The Louisiana State University - Hurricane Center. Louisiana State University is the flagship institution of the State, classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a Doctoral/Research-Extensive University. The university has a long history of research in hurricanes, coastal sciences and engineering. The LSU Hurricane Center was founded and approved by the Louisiana Board of Regents in the year 2000 to provide a focal point for this work, with a mission to advance the state-of-knowledge of hurricanes and their impacts on the natural, built, and human environments; to stimulate interdisciplinary and collaborative research activities; to transfer new knowledge and technology to students and professionals in concerned disciplines; and to assist the state, the nation, and the world in solving hurricane-related problems. Research efforts that have been translated into practice in support of emergency management agencies include: implementation of real-time storm surge modeling; improvements in hurricane evacuation planning and operations (particularly contraflow evacuations), and improvements in hurricane shelter analysis and design methods. The American Association for Wind Engineering (AAWE) was originally established as the Wind Engineering Research Council in 1966 to promote and disseminate technical information in the research community. In 1983 the name was changed to American Association for Wind Engineering and incorporated as a nonprofit professional organization. The multi-disciplinary field of wind engineering considers problems related to wind and associated water loads and penetrations for buildings and structures, societal impact of winds, hurricane and tornado risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis, codes and standards, dispersion of urban and industrial pollution, wind energy and urban aerodynamics. Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) represents more than 125,000 civil engineers worldwide and is the nation’s oldest engineering society. ASCE members represent the profession most responsible for the nation’s built environment. Our members work in private practice, industry, government and academia. ASCE is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) -approved standards developer and publisher of the Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and other Structures (ASCE-7), which is referenced in the nation’s major model building codes. As part of the ASCE-7 document, engineers are provided guidance in estimating the loads resulting from wind effects on structures. Thus, ASCE is at the forefront in the development of new information for engineers regarding wind and is in a unique position to comment on the status quo and our needs for the future. The Wind Hazard Reduction Coalition currently represents 23 associations and companies which are committed to the creation of a National Wind Hazard Reduction Program (NWHRP) that would focus on significantly reducing loss of life and property damage in the years to come. The Coalition includes professional societies, research organizations, industry groups and individual companies with knowledge and experience in dealing with the impact of high winds. Problems and Solutions All 50 states are vulnerable to the hazards of windstorms. Just last year, four hurricanes made landfall in Florida and caused severe damage. Losses from the 2004 hurricane season are estimated to exceed $40 billion to date and are still being counted. These storms resulted in 27 federal disaster declarations covering 15 states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In 1998, hurricanes, tornadoes and other wind related storms caused at least 186 fatalities and more than $5.5 billion in damage. During the week of May 4-10, 2003, a record 384 tornadoes occurred in 19 states, including Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee resulting in 42 fatalities. On May 3, 1999, more than 70 violent tornadoes struck from north Texas to the Northern Plains. Forty-one people died and more than 2,750 homes were damaged. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew resulted in $26.5 billion in losses and 61 fatalities, in 1989, Hurricane Hugo resulted in $7 billion in losses and 86 fatalities and in 1999, Hurricane Floyd resulted in more than $6 billion in losses and 56 deaths. One major effort currently underway to reduce the loss of life and injuries in hurricanes and tornadoes is the development of a national standard for storm shelters. The International Code Council (ICC) and National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA), with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are currently developing the ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters. The purpose of the standard is “to establish minimum requirements to safeguard the public health, safety, and general welfare relative to the design, construction, installation, repair, operation and maintenance of storm shelters constructed for refuge from high winds associated with tornadoes and hurricanes.” Scheduled to be completed next year, this consensus national standard has the potential to significantly improve shelter safety. In tornado-prone areas, the Storm Shelter Standard could be particularly helpful with regard to assuring a minimum level of performance for manufactured residential shelters, i.e., providing a basic consumer protection. The biggest immediate impact of the standard in hurricane-prone areas will likely be for community shelters. This is because the majority of buildings currently used as public hurricane shelters are inadequately constructed to resist an intense hurricane, placing the occupants at risk. This fact was demonstrated during the 2004 hurricane season in Florida. Supported by the ICC and Louisiana Sea Grant – LSU Hurricane Center researchers spent time in the field after Hurricanes Charley and Ivan, investigating performance of hurricane shelters. Of the two dozen shelters surveyed, those built to Florida’s Enhanced Hurricane Protection Area (EHPA) criteria outperformed shelters not built to those criteria. Damage to EHPA facilities was generally limited to minor water leakage. In other facilities, roof damage and water penetration serious enough to cause people to evacuate the shelter space was not uncommon. Publication of the standard alone will not improve shelter safety though; it is just the first step in the process. Unless it is adopted and enforced by jurisdictions having authority over building construction, or voluntary compliance with the standard is requested or agreed to by the facility owners, the standard will have little impact. Therefore, a significant awareness and education campaign will be needed. It must be addressed to architects, engineers, building officials, shelter owners (e.g., homeowners, school boards, city governments) and shelter operators (e.g., American Red Cross, emergency management agencies). One of the biggest challenges facing design of public hurricane shelters is that shelter operators are not the owners of the shelter facilities and are rarely involved in the planning and design process. When faced with tight budgets and many competing needs, spending additional construction dollars to harden the facility for use as a hurricane shelter is usually a low priority with the facility owner, even though the owner is often a public entity and tax dollars are funding the construction of the new school or municipal building. Unless able to obtain a mitigation grant from FEMA or perhaps a state agency, the local government or the school district generally has to bear the increased construction costs associated with constructing the facility for dual use as a shelter. This is an area where additional engineering research and technology transfer is crucial – improving cost-effectiveness of storm shelters. Another hurricane sheltering issue relates to getting the message out about who should be going to shelters and who should be advised to shelter in place. Emergency managers generally only order mandatory evacuations for areas subject to significant hurricane flooding. This is done in order to make sure there is sufficient transportation system capacity available for people in the most at-risk areas. As coastal population growth continues to outpace construction of new highway infrastructure – more and more people will not be able to evacuate and need to seek shelter in their own residences or other local facilities. The National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center and television media do comparatively good job of informing the public about the hazards they can expect with the approaching storm, but what information do people have about the relative safety of their home or business or shelter, so that they can make an informed decision about where is the safest place? If they are under a voluntary or precautionary evacuation warning, should they leave or stay? This is an area where better coordination and collaboration between the engineering community, emergency management community, and meteorology community is desperately needed. Catastrophic hurricane planning is another area where much additional work and collaboration between the different professional communities is needed. Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Ivan in 2004 both had the potential to drown the city of New Orleans and much of the surrounding southeast Louisiana under 10-20 feet of water. Estimates are that only 50-60% of the residents evacuated for these storms, meaning over half a million people were at significant risk. Warned or not, if people have not evacuated and the water comes, there will be mass fatalities. Last year the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and FEMA (and many other federal and state agencies) conducted a week-long joint planning exercise on how to respond and recover from just such a scenario. This event helped produce the first catastrophic hurricane response plan, but it also raised more questions than it answered. Hurricane Lili in 2002 raised similar fears. As the Category 4 hurricane approached the Louisiana coast on the evening of October 2, it appeared to begin moving farther east than had been predicted, into areas that had not been as well evacuated. Frantic preparations began to start identifying buildings to serve as refuges of last resort. Fortunately the storm returned to its more westerly track and rapidly lost strength before making landfall, and Louisiana dodged another bullet. This event highlighted the importance of plans of last resort – for situations where a storm makes an unexpected turn close to shore or rapidly intensifies, as Hurricane Opal did in 1995 when it accelerated and explosively intensified overnight to unexpectedly threaten the Florida panhandle. Hurricanes also have impacts well beyond the regions where they make landfall. Price and availability of construction materials across the country are adversely affected by major storms such as Hurricane Andrew and the Hurricanes of 2004. Hurricane Ivan significantly disrupted offshore oil and gas production and transportation in the Gulf of Mexico, impacting energy prices nationwide. Fortunately, none of last years hurricanes impacted the onshore. This is another area of significant concern. A study of industry practices published in 1997 by ASCE found that the wind resistant design of onshore refineries and petrochemical plants varied tremendously due to the aerodynamic complexity of the types of structures involved and the lack of coverage of these types of structures in any building codes or standards. An unexplored aspect of this report is that many industrial plants do not understand how vulnerable their processing and storage facilities may be to extreme winds. Many plants specify a wind speed to which their facilities should be designed, but because of uncertainties in how the wind interacts with the complex structures, the actual wind the structure can resist might be much larger or smaller. In practical terms – the actual design strength may be more than one Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Category less than or greater than the intended design. In most cases the owners/operators of the facilities are unaware of this discrepancy, which is very important considering that decisions on whether to shut down a plant are generally based on the expected Hurricane Category at landfall. Additional study is needed to further define this problem, and cooperation with this industry and the preparedness/response community. The problems and solutions described so far are just a few examples of areas in which more work and closer coordination is needed between industry, government, and the engineering community. The United States currently sustains billions of dollars per year in property and economic loss due to windstorms. The Federal government’s focus has been one of response and recovery, not mitigation. While there will always be a need, a sustained focus on hazard mitigation can lessen the cost in life and property of these events. With the average annual damage from windstorms at more than $6 billion, the current $5-10 million Federal investment in research to mitigate these impacts is inadequate. In contrast, the Federal government invests over $100 million per year in reducing earthquake losses through the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, a program that has lead to a significant reduction in the effects of earthquakes. A Federal investment in wind hazard reduction would pay similar or greater dividends in saved lives and decreased property damage. Near-surface winds are the most variable of all meteorological elements, making the prediction and control of their impacts all the more challenging. In the United States the mean annual wind speed is 8 to 12 mph, but wind speeds of 50 mph occur frequently throughout the country, and nearly every area occasionally experiences winds of 70 mph or greater. In coastal areas of the East and Gulf coasts, tropical storms may bring wind speeds of well over 100 mph. In the middle of the country, wind speeds in tornadoes can be even higher. Unfortunately, reducing vulnerability to wind hazards is not just a question of developing the appropriate technical solution. Wind hazards are created by a variety of events with large uncertainties in the magnitudes and characteristics of the winds. The relevant government agencies and programs, as well as the construction industry, are fragmented. Finally, implementation requires action by owners and the public, who may not consider hazard reduction a high priority. Solving wind vulnerability problems will require coordinated work in scientific research, technology development, education, technology transfer and public outreach. In 1993, the National Research Council (NRC) published a report entitled “Wind and the Built Environment.” The report included the recommendations of the Panel on the Assessment of Wind Engineering Issues in the United States. The panel recommended the establishment of a national program to reduce wind vulnerability. Such a program would include wind research that draws upon the expertise of both academia and industry and addresses both structural and nonstructural mitigation methods, an outreach program to educate state and local governments on the nature of the wind risks they face, a conscious effort to improve communication within the wind community and a commitment to international cooperation in wind-engineering. A 1999 NRC study concurred with that recommendation and specifically urged Congress to designate “funds for a coordinated national wind-hazard reduction program that encourages partnerships between federal, state and local governments, private industry, the research community, and other interested stakeholders.” In 2003, the Rand Corporation released a report entitled, “Assessing Federal Research and Development for Hazard Loss Reduction”. Specific recommendations for a research and implementation program are contained in the report released by the American Association for Wind Engineering and the American Society of Civil Engineers entitled “Wind Engineering Research and Outreach Plan to Reduce Losses Due to Wind Hazards.” Both reports support programs which would encompass four focuses: · Understanding of Wind Hazards - developing a greater understanding of severe winds, quantify wind loading on buildings, structures and infrastructure and developing wind hazards maps · Assessing the Impact of Wind Hazards – assessing the performance of buildings, structures and infrastructure under severe winds, developing frameworks and tools for simulations and computer modeling and developing tools for system level modeling and loss assessment; · Reducing the Impact of Wind Hazards – developing retrofit measures for existing buildings, structures and infrastructure, developing innovative wind-resistant technologies for buildings, structures and infrastructure and developing land measures and cost effective construction practices consistent with site-specific wind hazards; and · Enhancing Community Resilience, Education and Outreach – enhancing community resilience to wind hazards, effective transfer to professionals of research findings and technology and development of educational programs and public outreach activities. From these reports and the efforts a number of Senators and Members of Congress, as well as the Wind Hazards Reduction Caucus, the National Wind Storm Hazards Reduction Program was born. Created by Public Law 108-360, the legislation represents five years of work in which stake holders representing a broad cross-section of interests such as the research, technology transfer, design and construction, and financial communities; materials and systems suppliers; state, county, and local governments; the insurance industry, have participated in crafting this legislation. This bill represents a consensus of all those with an interest in the issue and a desire to see the benefits this legislation will generate. Among the potential research area this program can explore are the numerous areas where we lack the knowledge to make informed judgments with respect to building siting and design. With data learn from research in the following areas, and other not yet foreseen, better knowledge and data will lead to cost-effective design and construction practices to mitigate the impacts of high winds. Boundary Layer Meteorology for Landfalling Storms - We know very little about the structure of the wind in a hurricane and how it changes as it passes over land. Research is needed to better understand the nature of boundary layer transitions, turbulence, rainfall, and decay rates as storms move inland. The design wind speed and gust factors used in all building codes and standards (including ASCE 7) are based on a set of assumptions that hurricane winds have similar properties to winds from other events, which we know to be untrue. This research can lead to significant improvements in wind-loading related portions of our building codes and standards. Rapid Damage Assessment using Remote Sensing for Improved Response and Recovery - The key to optimization of response and recovery operations is timely access to detailed information on the extent and intensity of damage throughout the effected areas. Very high resolution data can be obtained from commercial satellite-based remote sensing systems, which was previously unavailable except to intelligence and defense communities. Resolutions have improved to the point where data is available on individual buildings and vehicles. Development of computerized analysis tools that automate and map damage assessment estimates will significantly assist response and rescue and recovery operations. Improved Connections and Framing Systems for Light Frame Construction - Much of the structural damage which occurs in severe winds is to light frame one- and two-story construction. There has been relatively little improvement in wood and other light framing technology in the past 20 years. New cost-effective construction techniques could significantly reduce structural damage to low-rise buildings. Roof System Testing Procedures and Devices for Wind Resistance - No standardized testing procedures and devices exist to test roof cladding materials for resistance to extreme winds and debris. Development of these items is a necessary prerequisite for improved roofing performance (see next item). New Roofing Systems - Damage to roofing is perhaps the single most common source of wind damage. Even small failures can allow the wind and rain inside the building leading to significant interior and contents damage and possible structural failure. Development of new wind-resistant roofing materials and technologies could significantly reduce wind-induced damage. In-Residence Shelters for Hurricane Protection - In collaboration with the university research community, FEMA has conducted research and developed plans and guidelines for in-residence shelters for protection from tornadic winds. These designs provide near complete protection for occupants from even large tornadoes, but are too costly and overly conservative for use on hurricane coast. New research is needed to find more appropriate and cost effective solutions for construction on the hurricane coast. Dual-Use Public Hurricane and Tornado Shelters - Schools are the most commonly used buildings for hurricane evacuation shelters, but they are not structurally designed to provide a safe haven. Similarly, children shelter in place while in school during tornado warnings, but these buildings too are not designed with adequate protection. Research and development of design guidelines and methodologies on how best to construct schools and other public buildings for dual function as shelters from hurricanes and tornadoes is desperately needed. Retrofit Technologies for Wind Resistance - Although it is much easier to build wind resistance into new construction, the country has an enormous investment in existing building stock. Technologies for cost-effective retrofits to improve wind resistance of these buildings should be an important focus of any new research program. Congress has taken action to establish a program to mitigate the impact of severe windstorms. What is needed in the immediate future is funding for the new program. I would urge members of the Subcommittee to work with your colleagues in the Appropriations Committee to ensure that the Windstorm Hazards Reduction Program can begin the work it was designed to do. For Fiscal Year 2006 the program is authorized for $22.5 million dollars in spending, spread over four agencies. Specifically, the law authorizes: · $8.7 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency; · $3 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the Department of Commerce; · $8.7 million for the National Science Foundation; and, · $2.1 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Once again, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the many organizations I am representing here today. I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have.
Mr. Doug AhlbergDirectorLancaster County Emergency Management