Buyer beware

Published 10:44 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2008

By Staff
With the beginning of the hurricane season less than a month away, now is probably a good time to remind people that live in certain coastal areas they should expect certain things.
Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center, is saying the rapidly increasing pace of coastal development in hurricane-prone areas requires forecast accuracy must take on new urgency, according to a story by The Associated Press. Read is right. People who choose to live in coastal areas where hurricanes are no strangers should expect those storms to damage their homes and other properties. Those same people also should expect accurate forecasts, especially in these days of technological advancements related to issuing storm warnings.
As more people move into growing coastal regions, those communities will have less time to make decisions regarding evacuations, Read says. Although forecasters improve each year when it comes to determining predicted impact zones, coastal communities must stay alert when it comes to where and how hurricanes are developing, Read says.
From 1996 to 2001, 53 percent of coastal development in the United States occurred along shores between North Carolina and Texas, areas most prone to hurricanes, according to a recent government study.
Read bought his Florida home outside the storm-surge zone in his community. That’s something other homeowners who choose to live in coastal areas should consider.
It’s understandable that people want to live in coastal areas. When they make that choice to live in a higher-risk area when it comes to hurricanes, they should do so with the understanding they are responsible for repairing or replacing their homes when damaged or destroyed by hurricanes. They should not expect government to bail them out when their homes are damaged and destroyed. No one forced them to live on the ocean or sound.
It’s reasonable for them to expect the government to provide them with accurate, timely forecasts so they can prepare for hurricanes. It’s not reasonable to expect the government to replace their homes, especially when they are the ones who decided to build in areas prone to hurricanes.
When it comes to forecast accuracy, the prime responsibility of the National Hurricane Center is to help protect lives. And as coastal populations grow in the hurricane-prone areas, that responsibility becomes even greater. With more people to evacuate in the event of a hurricane these days, the need for forecast urgency and accuracy are needed so those people have enough time to evacuate.
Thirty years ago, the time it took to evacuate a place like the Outer Banks was just a fraction of the time it takes to evacuate the Outer Banks today.
People who choose to live in hurricane-prone areas must know their vulnerability. If history has taught people anything about hurricanes, it is that awareness and preparation are key to surviving hurricanes. It’s up to the National Hurricane Center to help make people aware of hurricanes so they can prepare for them. And once people have been made aware of hurricanes, it’s up to them to prepare for them.
Not building in hurricane-prone areas is one way to lessen the risk of a hurricane’s destroying one’s home, but it’s no guarantee. A home 100 miles from the ocean can be destroyed by a hurricane just as easily as a home on the beach.
If the government is going to spend money on hurricane-related items, then it should spend that money on improving forecast accuracy and the speed with which it issues warnings. It should be helping protect properties, not rebuilding them.
For those who have been warned and choose to build homes in harm’s way, they should be prepared to pay the price.