Should the feds be liable for flooding during Hurricane Harvey?
A federal statute bars nearly all claims against the federal government for flooding. Victims of flooding from Hurricane Harvey seem to have found a loophole by claiming that their property was taken without just compensation by flooding. The facts are unusual, but the case raises some deep questions about financial responsibility for flood control. Here …CONTINUE READING
Puerto Rico was hit much harder than Houston. But help was much slower coming.
Texas and Puerto Rico both got hit very hard last year by major hurricanes. But the federal government moved a lot more quickly to get help to Texas. In a new paper, I document the difference and explore the reasons. Although I won’t go into all the details here, this is a situation people need …CONTINUE READING
It’s been eight months. What’s happened since the storm?
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the U.S. on August 25, 2017. That probably seems like ancient history to many Americans who live outside the area. The storm has certainly dropped out of the national media. It’s not easy to find information about how storm recovery is proceeding. But here’s where I could find. Let’s start …CONTINUE READING
States (for wind) and the Feds (for water) provide insurance for hurricane victims. Here’s how.
Rebuilding takes money. That makes insurance a crucial part of the equation. Insured losses are expected to be in the $70 billion range for Harvey and Irma combined. This includes commercial insurance, but the payments for home owners will also be hefty. Those costs are generally covered by government-supported insurance markets. I’ve posted previously about …CONTINUE READING
The 100-year flood and the 500-year flood are both very rough estimates.
My title is a little unfair. So far as I can tell, the people who are trying to figure out the 100-year or 500-year floods in various places are hard-working professionals, applying their expertise to a difficult problem. But there are a lot of uncertainties that get concealed behind the final numbers. The consequence is …CONTINUE READING
It’s a complex process involving many federal agencies and state government.
When people think of FEMA, they envision rescuers finding victims and taking them to safety. FEMA does provide emergency assistance, temporary housing and other services. But its main job is to coordinate the response of many parts of the federal government. And the federal government’s role itself is mostly supportive, with the main job of …CONTINUE READING
Houston failed to learn a key lesson from Katrina about the need to prepare for catastrophic flooding.
The torrential rain in Houston would have caused bad flooding no matter what. There’s no question about that. But it’s also true that Houston’s flood control efforts have been badly managed. Houston failed to learn a key lesson from Katrina: the most important disaster response is done years in advance through risk mitigation. Not only …CONTINUE READING
This is the first in what will be a series of posts about disaster law.
As I write, Hurricane Harvey continues to hammer Texas, with rains and flooding expected to last for days. Because the storm is so slow moving, it may dump up to several feet of rain in some locations. For the same reason, it’s future trajectory is unclear, so we can’t even be sure of what areas …CONTINUE READING