On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee gathered to discuss national efforts to prepare for weather disasters, including snowstorms like the one expected to pummel Washington throughout the day on Thursday.
The coming storm, which is currently making its way up the Eastern Seaboard, has already prompted President Barack Obama to declare a national emergency in 45 counties in Georgia, as well as deploy the services of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help the state through the storm.
Today’s panel was aptly titled “Extreme Weather Events: The Costs of Not Being Prepared.” During it, Department of Homeland Security official explained how America’s lack of preparedness for responding to extreme weather, from snow storms to floods, caused $1.15 trillion in economic losses from 1980 to 2010.
“According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, future impacts of climate change project national economic losses on the order of $1.2 trillion through 2050,” said David Heyman, DHS’ assistant secretary for policy.
Private sector responders were also at the hearing to give their take on how extreme weather hurts businesses. “One only needs to read the newspapers to affirm that in the face of named storms and other extreme weather events, large numbers of assets, and the communities that are defined by these assets and which support them, are not sufficiently resilient,” said Lindene Patton, chief climate product officer at Zurich Insurance Group.
Senators also acknowledged the growing number of extreme weather occurrences.
“Unfortunately, extreme weather appears to be the new norm,” said Tom Carper (D-Del.).”Events like Superstorm Sandy, recent wildfires, [and] dangerous and historic droughts may well be just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come.”
In the meantime, Washingtonians are bracing for what’s to come in the next 48 hours. The District has already declared a snow emergency going into effect at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night. This is the first snow emergency declaration since the infamous “Snowmageddon” of 2010, when D.C. saw an accumulation of over three feet of snow.
We’ll see if this storm can top that.
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