WV and National Disaster news - February 22, 2021


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The Associated Press reported Sunday that while electricity has been restored in many parts of Texas, hospitals across the South grappled with water shortages Sunday in the wake of last week’s devastating winter storm. The article says at least 76 deaths have been attributed to the storm, half of which occurred in Texas. About 30,000 Texans were still without power due to downed power lines and other equipment failures. KWTX-TV (TX) reports Gov. Greg Abbott said during a news conference Sunday that he expected all service to be restored no later than Monday. Abbott also said food supply shortages at grocery stores would soon be resolved, now that road conditions are safe for deliveries. Abbott also said he and other leaders were working overtime to address steep electricity bills that some Texans had received.
FEMA’s acting administrator, Robert Fenton, appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” this weekend and discussed his agency’s relief efforts. Fenton outlined the challenges over the next few days saying, “I think what we are going to see is much more damage to pipes and as people turn on their water, impacts from that. So, it’s going to take time for water systems to start working. We’re going to need to continue to provide significant amounts of water there. It will take a while for the grocery stores to come up get restocked, which means we have to continue to provide food to individuals who don’t have food.” Fenton also encouraged eligible disaster survivors in Texas to apply for disaster assistance.
Gov. Abbott also detailed relief efforts in the state. KTSM-TV (TX) in San Antonio reports the Texas National Guard, in conjunction with DOD and FEMA, have delivered an estimated 3.4 million bottles of water to the state over the past few days. Abbott said eight helicopters and four airplanes have completed 44 missions, delivering 1.4 million bottles of water around the state. Additionally, Abbott says more than two million bottles have been delivered through 162 truck deliveries. NBC Nightly News reports people across Texas face continuous challenges on multiple fronts.
Fox News reports Biden signed a major disaster declaration on Saturday that unlocked federal funds for residents of weather-ravaged Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott has characterized the aid as a "partial" solution because it only included 77 of the state’s 254 counties and that Abbott wanted the assistance to cover all of Texas. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about the declaration on ABC “This Week” and said, "What happens here is the governor requested a federal disaster declaration. The president asked his team to expedite that. And FEMA determined where the counties should be — where it should focus the immediate resources, where the counties that are hardest hit so that they can make sure they get to the people in most need."
Psaki also said the federal aid was intended not only to take care of the emergency but also to continue through the recovery. The article also says President Biden could travel to Texas sometime this week. Psaki said that the president has been getting constant updates from his FEMA chief and is "eager" to show his support for the Lone Star State.
A number of articles appeared overnight on a potential rise in National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) premiums. The New York Times reports that new data suggests FEMA will have to quadruple The article says FEMA is revising rates for flood coverage that will be announced on April 1.
A Looming Disaster: New Data Reveal Where Flood Damage Is An Existential Threat (NPR) reports climate change is a looming insurance disaster, especially for the federal government. More than 4 million houses and small apartment buildings across the U.S. have substantial risk of expensive flood damage, according to First Street Foundation. The organization estimates the cost of flood damage to homes nationwide will increase by more than 50% in the next 30 years. The article says the federal government provides the vast majority of residential flood insurance in the U.S. and most policies are underpriced relative to the actual cost of flood damage.
The Boston Globe (MA) reports growing dangers of climate change will cost the National Flood Insurance Program billions in additional losses.
A USA Today article on Sunday says some of the biggest gaps in current premiums versus actual risk appear in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions in places such as Florida, South Carolina and New Jersey. Chasms also exist in pockets of California, Texas and Washington. The article says FEMA has been working for years on a new risk assessment and rating structure. When it’s implemented in October, Risk Rating 2.0 will be the biggest change to the NFIP since its inception more than 50 years ago.
Homeland Security Today (VA) reported Sunday that FEMA has announced it plans to increase funding for states and cities to focus on the pursuit of domestic extremist groups, doubling down on the agency’s efforts to combat domestic extremism. The article cites a Feb. 18 CNN story that notes during a recent CNN town hall, President Biden said "domestic terror" is the greatest terrorism threat to the US. "It is complex, it's wide ranging, and it's real," he said of the ongoing threats from Americans who embrace White supremacy. A FEMA spokesperson told CNN, "Since 2002, DHS has allocated more than $54 billion to states and territories to prevent and prepare for the threats that terrorist organizations pose. Almost 20 years later, the homeland security threat environment has evolved. As the threats evolve, so, too, must the grant programs intended to prepare communities for those threats.”

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