Congress Adopts Wicker Plan to Improve Hurricane Forecasting, Storm Damage Claims, and Flood Mapping

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The MS coast is still recovering from the most active hurricane season on record. A bill that will help improve hurricane forecasting and flood mapping is getting support in the Senate. The legislation–introduced by MS Senator Roger Wicker–also has a provision that would help homeowners recover insurance money if their house is reduced to a slab. NOAA has been developing hindcast models that would create post-storm assessments that would help out in cases where it can’t be determined whether the damage was caused by wind or water.

More details are contained in this release from Senator Wicker:

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today cheered Senate passage of S. 914, The Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act. Among other provisions, Wicker’s legislation would renew support for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ocean data collection network used to predict hurricanes and would improve the flood insurance claims process for homeowners suffering a total loss of their homes after a hurricane.

“After withstanding the most active hurricane season on record, our nation needs continued advances in tracking, measuring, and reporting on the impact of severe weather and flooding,” Wicker said. “The Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act will build on our existing data collection efforts and help homeowners recover insurance funds when all that remains of their homes after a hurricane is a concrete slab. I hope the new efforts authorized by my proposal will make a marked difference for communities that are affected by storms.”
Wicker’s legislation reauthorizes and makes targeted improvements to the national Integrated Ocean Observation System (IOOS). IOOS strengthens ocean observation efforts by coordinating a network of people and technology to generate and distribute a continuous feed of standardized data, information, models, products, and services from the coastal and marine environment across the U.S. The data is used to provide the nation with better predictions of hazardous events such as hurricanes by improving forecasting.

S. 914 also includes provisions to help NOAA and FEMA implement Wicker’s COASTAL Act of 2012, which was written to help homeowners recover insurance funds for their property if losses could not be determined to be caused by wind or water. These so-called “indeterminate loss” or “slab” properties created many legal disputes after Hurricane Katrina between private home insurance providers, the National Flood Insurance Program, and their policyholders. NOAA has been developing advanced weather hindcast models to create “post-storm assessments” after catastrophic weather events that would be available for use by homeowners and insurance providers to determine responsibility for damage to properties where no other evidence is available.

Wicker’s legislation also formally authorizes the National Water Center (NWC) within the National Weather Service at NOAA. The NWC will be tasked with coordinating all water prediction activities from global to local levels. It will be capable of simulating and forecasting how water moves throughout the nation’s rivers and streams, providing hourly forecasts. These new, more granular forecasts will help communities, first responders, and industries make better-informed decisions about water management and how to prepare for and respond to extreme water events.

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