Complacency fuels storm toll
One of the late comedian Sam Kinison’s most famous bits was about hunger: “… there wouldn’t be world hunger if you people lived where the food is! You live in a desert! It’s sand. Go live where the food is!”
A joke, but containing an element of truth. The real-life lesson is that, ideally, people should live in areas of high productivity and low risk. But since that’s not always feasible, the next best thing is to mitigate those risks as much as possible.
That’s why buildings and bridges in California are engineered to withstand earthquakes, sea walls are built in tsunami zones, and extensive irrigation systems are constructed in dry areas. Makes sense. So how is it, then, that a whopping 80 percent of homeowners in the Houston region do not have flood insurance? How is it possible for so many, spread across all income levels and demographic lines, to have been so penny wise and pound foolish – a fact driven tragically home after Hurricane Harvey laid waste to that area?
Was it because Houston never gets hurricanes? Not even close as that area, located on the Gulf of Mexico, has experienced major storms throughout its history.
In fact, the hurricane that smashed into Galveston in 1900 – less than an hour’s drive from Houston – remains the worst lossof-life disaster in American history, when upward of 12,000 perished.
Was it because flood insurance is prohibitively expensive? Think again. The average premium is $555 (up from $514 last year). That’s per year, not month. In other words, the average cost of one trip to Starbucks, per week, would have provided virtually all the coverage necessary to rebuild from the devastation (the federal flood insurance program caps limits at $250,000 for structure and $100,000 for personal possessions).
So why the lack of coverage? Complacency, fueled by thoughts that “we’re untouchable,” combined with an entitlement mentality that “someone” will bail them out if the unthinkable occurs – with that someone being “taxpayers.”
(Let’s get it out of the way. I am a callous, heartless wretch trampling on those who need help rather than criticism.
Do it later, the critics will say, after people recover.
Sorry, but no. “Later” is simply guaranteeing that no one will care about lessons learned – until, of course, the next storm looms, but by then it will be too late.)
If you live in a flood region, it’s not a question of if, but when, you’ll get hit. Yes, the amount of rain Harvey dumped was unprecedented. So what?
Weather is becoming exponentially more intense, and once-in100-year storms are increasingly common.
The arrogance of New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina should have taught us the lessons of shaking off complacency and being prepared.
Time and again, the divine watched out for the Crescent City, as numerous “guaranteed to hit” hurricanes veered away at the last minute. The result? For decades, city leaders reallocated funds earmarked for stronger levees to pet projects, including statues and fountains.
Had they done their job, Katrina’s damage would have been a fraction of what it was.
Speaking of complacency, if you live in a hurricane zone, is it really that hard to buy a case of water per month, and store it in a garage? And how about keeping 20 gallons of gasoline on hand, as well as food, flashlights, and batteries?
If the storm is bad enough, people with common sense will leave. But if they want to stay, let them. It’s a free country, and there’s something inherently primeval about riding out nature’s fury – so long as those who do understand there are consequences. They can’t have it both ways: Ignoring warnings, but expecting to be rescued when things deteriorate.
Can we stop politicizing hurricanes? From saying climate change is directly responsible (a vastly unfounded leap) to alleging that it was God punishing America for its “sins,” (so much for a merciful God) such statements don’t help matters.
But the worst was televangelist Joel Osteen initially refusing to open his 17,000-seat megachurch to those seeking shelter because “the city didn’t ask.” Really, pastor? Last time we checked, charity starts at home. And on that test, you failed spectacularly. Here’s hoping your congregation creates its own storm and redirects contributions away from your lavish lifestyle, toward those who truly need it.