Irene damage estimated at 0.214% of GDP
Irene has come and gone. She was a big girl but fortunately she didn’t cost a lot in terms of economic damages. The biggest toll was the 25 lives she claimed. I mourn those deaths and know their loss is incalculable to their families.
Local, county and state officials responded to the disaster admirably. Local newspapers and television stations are full of stories of families evacuated and emergency measures taken. New Jersey and New York City preemptively evacuated millions of people and shut down mass transit and other infrastructure systems. Given the scale of potential damage the losses have not been that great.
The economic loss of Hurricane Irene has been estimated at approximately $3 – 4 billion. Measured against a gross domestic product of $14 trillion Irene will ding the economy for about 0.214% of its annual output. Some have suggested that this will give the construction industry a boost, but it’s not significant. Irene’s damage, on its own, is not a substantial blow to the U.S. economy, but nine other “weather disasters” have caused more than $35 billion in damages this year, according to the National Climatic Data Center at the U.S. Department of Commerce (hat tip Empty Wheel).
The federal agencies which man the front lines during disasters are facing funding pressures in this time of budget austerity. The Hill reports that the disaster relief funds of the Federal Emergency Management Agency have dipped below a crucial threshold that keeps them from initiatives broader than debris clean-up. The Huffington Post explains that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will have trouble launching the replacements of current weather-tracking satellites on schedule due to budget reductions.
All levels of government are restraining their expenditures, but ensuring the safety of the people is the primary responsibility of every level of government. I’d like to suggest to members of Congress that there are plenty of areas in the military budget that can be reduced to ensure that all necessary funds for domestic protection efforts are covered. The events of this weekend show that it is vital that FEMA and the NOAA are fully funded.
+ Good Links +
Government Technology: Hurricane Storm Surge Calculated With New Web Tool
Government Technology: Hurricane Apps and Social Media
Weather Underground: Historic Hurricanes from New Jersey to New England: 1634-2011
Image courtesy of NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory