John D. Rockefeller, IVSenatorAs a nation, we depend on critical infrastructure and basic services everyday: We can talk to family and friends across the nation, drive on well-marked, safe roads, and rely on a robust public safety system to come to our aid in emergencies. But if we want to make sure that essential foundation is there when we need it most, we must continue to invest in cutting-edge technology and the latest research.Every year, hurricanes strike this nation, threatening enormous devastation and great loss. Approximately 100 related deaths occur annually with damages in the United States alone averaging an estimated $11.4 billion annually.On August 29th, it will be four years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, resulting in $125 billion dollars in damages and over 1833 reported deaths. Yet, as we approach this anniversary, over 10,000 people still live in New Orleans without permanent or adequate housing. Those who chose to stay after the storm are left with mediocre government services and substandard living.
Whenever our country’s less fortunate citizens suffer, our nation suffers as a whole and it is the responsibility of those elected to serve—from the federal government to local communities—to do all we can now and in the future to make sure a tragedy like this never happens again.Hurricanes are a frequent reminder that we must be prepared for the worst—and that by investing in our communities we can help them weather storms better and recover more quickly.It is easy to assume that only coastal states must prepare for hurricanes, but that could not be further from the truth. Inland states, such as West Virginia, feel the effects of hurricanes through severe thunderstorms, flooding, and tornadoes. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel hit the Northeast and caused significant damage in my state. West Virginia ultimately received more than $1.5 million from FEMA to assist in our recovery efforts.With today’s hearing, I hope to highlight and discuss some of the Federal research going on right now to better understand the basic science of hurricanes: Where are the data gaps? And what more do we need to improve hurricane forecasting?In addition, we will focus on mitigating hurricane damage by improving building codes to create more hurricane-resistant structures and maintaining coastal areas as buffers from storm surges and beach erosion.Of course, long after a hurricane has struck and the television reporters and aid workers have gone home, the hard work of recovery continues in communities across the nation, even as they prepare for the next storm.Today’s witnesses understand those challenges and I want to thank them for joining us here today. We really do have an all-star panel representing both private and public sectors, government and academia. I look forward to your testimony.###
Kay Bailey HutchisonSenator
STATEMENT OF HON. KAY BAILEY HUTCHINSON,
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION
OCEANS, ATMOSPHERE, FISHERIES, AND COAST GUARD
HEARING ON WEATHERING THE STORM: THE NEED FOR A
NATIONAL HURRICANE RESEARCH INITIATIVE,
JULY 28, 2009
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing on the need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative. As the United States – and especially Texas and other southeastern states – brace for the potential fury of the current 2009 hurricane season, this subject is both timely and relevant for committee consideration.
Hurricanes account for billions of dollars of economic loss – an average of more than $35 billion annually in the last five years alone, reflecting the enormous economic tolls of individual storms like Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Wilma, Charley, and Rita. Hurricane Ike alone caused $24B in damage and resulted in the loss of 112 lives. There are many portions of my home state of Texas that are still recovering from this devastating storm.
Storms like Ike and Katrina exposed how vulnerable the U.S. remains to natural disasters. As our coastal populations and urban centers continue to grow, our nation must find new and improved ways to minimize hurricane damage and fortify our prediction and response capabilities.
Therefore, in December 2005 the National Science Board convened a task force to examine the state of hurricane science and research in the U.S. Not surprisingly, it found that our nation must do more to improve forecasting, model intensity and impacts, enhance protection of the manmade environment, and refine response and evacuation strategies. Achieving these goals will require additional investment in advanced super-computing capabilities.
The Committee is fortunate to have Dr. Kelvin K. Droegemeier [DRO-ga-meier] testifying on behalf of the Task Force on Hurricane Science and Engineering, which produced the 2007 report recommending the formation of a National Hurricane Research Initiative. This initiative comes with a price tag of $313 million, and it will be critical for the committee to understand all aspects of such an approach as we consider legislation for authorizing this Initiative.
Of course, I must also note the critical testimony we will hear from Dr. Gordon Wells of the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas. Dr. Wells will testify about his experience using the “Ranger” – the most powerful computer in the National Science Foundation’s network of academic high performance computers – to synthesize satellite imagery, GPS tracking signals, and hurricane and storm surge models to orchestrate evacuations during Hurricane Ike. Dr. Wells’ use of “Ranger” helped saved thousands of lives and we need to ensure that our scientists and emergency planners and responders have the best tools possible to help protect both life and property.
I look forward to hearing from these witnesses as well as Dr. Spinrad from NOAA, Ms. Chapman-Henderson of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, and Mr. Nutter from the Reinsurance Association of America. This expert panel will allow us to examine both the need for a new hurricane research initiative as well as the economic and other benefits to our nation from such an undertaking.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing.
Dr. Kelvin K. DroegemeierCo-Chairman, Task Force on Hurricane Science and EngineeringNational Science Board
Dr. Richard W. SpinradAssistant Administrator, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric ResearchNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Dr. Gordon L. WellsProgram Manager, Center for Space ResearchUniversity of Texas at Austin
Ms. Leslie Chapman-HendersonPresident and CEOFederal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH)
Mr. Franklin W. NutterPresidentReinsurance Association of America