With the unprecedented rain that Hurricane Harvey unleashed across Houston and other communities, it is clear that the storm will go down as one of the most destructive to strike the United States. Less than two weeks later, Hurricane Irma became the most powerful Atlantic storm ever witnessed, followed swiftly by Maria. And now, Congress has no more important task than to help affected communities recover. But to give all Americans a chance to adequately prepare for and rebuild after future storms, lawmakers must make strategic reforms.
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Hurricane Spotlight series recommends how the federal government can improve policy in four areas:
- Reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The federal government’s initiative for insuring and managing flood risk is $25 billion in debt.
- Innovative financing for measures to mitigate storm impacts. The federal government must help localities and states make smarter investments to prepare for severe weather.
- Nature-based solutions. Wetlands, mangroves, and other coastal habitats act as buffers against floods.
- Flood-ready infrastructure. Measures should be taken to increase the durability of infrastructure and reduce unsustainable development in high-risk areas.
Congress must consider lessons from recent hurricanes as it attempts to put NFIP on a financially solvent path; revitalize American infrastructure; and set sound policies to avoid future catastrophes.
As deadly and costly as these storms have been, they also offer opportunities for improvements. If the federal government takes the steps outlined in this series, it can help vulnerable communities become more resilient to the impacts of severe weather.