The Norman Transcript


October 25, 2013

Superstorms cause shifts in priorities

NORMAN — Oklahomans are no strangers to violent weather. Tornadoes, wildfires, ice storms, floods, windstorms and hail have done considerable property damage in our state.

But it may be Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast that changes how political, business and public policy leaders assess the risks of future storms.

A business insurance publication called Sandy a watershed event that raises awareness about the possibility of such a natural disaster striking again. Sandy is believed to have caused $65 billion in damages and economic losses with $18.75 billion in insured losses.

An estimated 200,000 small businesses were closed, and employees lost two million work days. On land, Sandy covered 1.8 million square miles with a 14-foot peak storm surge height. Wind speed was measured at 65 knots.

By comparison, the tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma May 18 to 21 of this year caused 29 direct and indirect fatalities and an estimated $2 billion to $5 billion in damages.

While elected officials in the Northeast debate the merits of a European-style storm surge protection system, Oklahoma officials are reviewing plans to build shelters in public school buildings.

Both involve considerable amounts of public and private money and a change in the mindset on weather disasters.

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