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President Donald Trump’s timing appeared a little off this summer when it came to managing flood risk.
In mid-August, Mr. Trump signed an executive order revoking the establishment of a federal flood risk management standard. The executive order revoked one signed by former President Barack Obama in January 2015 to encourage federal agencies to consider current and future risk when taxpayer dollars were used to build or rebuild near flood plains. The article about the move was the ninth most read Risk Management story on BI’s website in 2017.
The revocation drew an immediate backlash from a diverse coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests and housing organizations.
Their concerns seemed prophetic days later when Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area, killing at least 93 people in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Harvey was quickly followed by hurricanes Irma and Maria battering Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
The 2017 hurricane season was the costliest season on record from an economic loss standpoint, according to Boston-based modeling firm AIR Worldwide and will make up the largest share of the $136 billion in 2017 catastrophe losses, according to Swiss Re Ltd.
In December, AIR estimated insured losses in the Caribbean to between $27 billion and $48 billion. The modeling firm estimated Irma’s insured losses for the United States and the Caribbean will range from $32 billion to $50 billion while projecting property losses from the flooding in Texas caused by Harvey's record-breaking rainfall at between $65 billion and $75 billion.
Following the Harvey losses, the Federal Emergency Management Agency in December submitted a $1.042 billion full-limit claim to reinsurers of the National Flood Insurance Program for Harvey losses – a move not expected to dissuade most reinsurers from participating in the agency’s next procurement of reinsurance for the troubled program.
But the future of the NFIP remains in serious doubt as Congress continues to kick the can down the road, adopting another short-term extension of the program until Jan. 19. The U.S. Senate has failed to follow the lead of its House counterparts and pass a comprehensive reauthorization and extension package. Congress has settled for a series of short-term extensions despite widespread recognition of the program’s long list of problems, starting with nearly $25 billion in debt despite Congress and the Trump administration’s forgiveness of $16 billion in debt in response to this year’s series of devastating natural catastrophes.