WEEK 13: Earlier this week I spoke with Rick Lord, Chief of Mitigation Programs & Agency Preservation Officer for the New York State Office of Emergency Management. I had contacted him in hopes of securing some of the $230 million dollars FEMA had given to the state of New York for flood mitigation. Lord is the head of the program in charge of distributing the money statewide.
MILLIONS OF DOLLARS: This huge pile of money was sanctioned by the federal government and, according to Lord, all 50 States received this same amount as part of a Hazard Mitigation Grant. To date 1,232 homes in New York have benefited. In large part the money is being used to assist homeowners with elevation projects and acquisitions to mitigate against flooding. Homes impacted by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and tropical storm Lee that same year are eligible as well as the infamous Super Storm Sandy.
PLEASE, SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE: How does it work and may I have a piece of that government pie? Well, for starters, homeowners can not apply themselves. The application must come from the city or town government office in which the home is located (very inconvenient). By definition, your city or town must participate in all flood mitigation rules and regulations to qualify for this money and be willing to jump through the government red tape for you. Next, your county must have been declared a national disaster during one of the above mentioned flood events. Your flood insurance category must be deemed “severe repetitive loss” and the extent of the damage must have exceeded 50% of the value of the house. For homes in metro New York – good luck meeting that threshold. If you want/need to live within an hour of New York City, the cost is set at a premium. See link below for more stats:
If your home meets all of the above criteria, it may be eligible for up to $30,000 toward an elevation project. I’m not sure what the acquisition top dollar would be – but I’m willing to guess that Uncle Sam can not afford to buy out many homes in Westechester County.
YOU’LL GET NOTHING AND LIKE IT! Final nail in the coffin for my home – if work has already begun toward elevating your house, your home is automatically disqualified. Seriously. Not that we would have qualified anyway, but penalizing initiative seems to go against the grain of the American way.
NEW FLOOD TECHNOLOGY: In a recent post I commented on the flood prevention technology being utilized in the subway stations of Nagoya, Japan. The floodgates are designed to protect the subway system from suffering extensive damages during a flood event. However, my contention is that any preventative measure that requires human activation and /or electricity to operate, suffers a potentially fatal flaw.
WHY? BECAUSE IT WORKS: Instead, I would investigate the feasibility of installing permanent concrete steps leading up to the subway entrance, creating a concrete barrier to flood waters. This flood prevention model has been utilized in some residential settings as seen in the picture below:
Flood mitigation via concrete stairway
Notice the doorway in the photo above, under the exterior light fixture. In order to reach the door, you must first ascend several steps before going down several stairs to reach the door. This works to create a flood barrier protecting the entry door on all sides. This same idea could be extrapolated for use in the subway system design thereby creating a permanent flood barrier.
STEADY REMINDER: I’m not suggesting this idea comes without it’s own downsides (they would be cumbersome for many people to navigate, for starters), but they would always be at the ready. As an added benefit, they’d also serve as a permanent visual reminder of flooding that has occurred in the past – revealing their own cautionary tale, lest anyone forget.
Link to article about the Japanese subway system floodgate: en.rocketnews24.com/2013/09/06/nagoya-surprises-citizens-by-unveiling-new-flood-prevention-technology/
The floodgates in the pictures above provide a simple, yet effective means to prevent extensive damage from floodwaters. In October 2012, when Super Storm Sandy ravaged New York City, many subway stations there were forced to shut down, stranding many New Yorkers. As NYC looks for means to combat the increasing threat of rising sea levels and increased incidents of extensive flooding, these floodgates offer one solution.
But I believe there is a better solution. The downside to floodgates, from my standpoint, is that they would require constant maintenance and human intervention to be properly implemented during a flood. What else could the city do to offer protection? Build cement steps at the entry of the subway, rising up several steps, before leading to the down staircase. A full time cement barrier. They would not be susceptible to mechanical failure or require any personnel to implement them during a flooding event. Yes, they would be expensive to build, but far less expensive than the seawater swirling around in the subway tunnels caused.
The pictures above are very compelling.
Along with the east coast states of New Jersey and New York, Connecticut communities are actively elevating their flood prone homes. Many of the properties procuring this flood prevention tactic sit right on the coast line of the Long Island Sound. Beautiful front row views of the water, right up until the weather goes haywire and the Sound ends up sloshing around in their living room. Yesterday, Bloomberg published an article articulating the need for home elevations in this area, along with the impact of the new FEMA maps
As stated in some of my earlier posts, FEMA has begun to aggressively remap floodplains in those areas that have been hit the hardest in recent years: homes impacted by Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy. FEMA has set it’s sights next on California, the Great Lakes and Florida. In a nutshell – more and more homes will have to two difficult and expensive options to choose from: elevate their homes or face sky-high flood insurance premiums.
See the article below for more information as well as some interesting photos:
FLASH FLOODING: This past weekend several cities across the U.S. were hit with severe rainfall amounts causing flash flooding and plenty of destruction. Everyone knows that a hurricane with its strong winds and heavy rains will cause significant damage and a rainy Nor’Easter will flood large areas at a time, but even a heavy summer rainstorm can be disastrous. Too much water in a short amount of time is going to be a problem. It’s a bit akin to blasting a bathtub full of water with a fire hose – the water can only drain so fast.
Parts of coastal North Carolina endured more than 9 inches of rain in just six hours as thunderstorms unloaded their wrath resulting in numerous roadway closures, flooded homes and at least two deaths. It was the “worst flash flooding in decades.” http://www.concordmonitor.com/news/7833007-95/heavy-rains-flood-homes-roads-in-north-carolina
A narrow band of record setting rain dumped more than 8 inches of rain near the Philadelphia International Airport in just four hours.
Located 100 miles south-east of Las Vegas, Kingman, Arizona had many road closures after 2 inches of rain fell in about 90 minutes.
One of the challenges with this flooding event is that it will not be declared a “National Disaster” by the President. Although FEMA will be on the ground, it will not be en masse, nor is the American Red Cross likely to be going door to door with assistance. Relatively few people were impacted. But to those who were, who are now dealing with a flooded home, my thoughts go out to you today. These flash floods will be but a blip on the news, but it will be months before your home will be put back together.