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1 big thing: Our building boom meets Mother Nature

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

North Carolina faced damages of more than $10 billion from Hurricanes Bertha and Fran in 1996, part of a string of disasters that forced the insurance industry to evaluate how much coastal risk it was willing to sustain.

The big picture: Despite wholesale reforms in insurance and increased awareness about future vulnerability for coastal property, developers built 113,000 new homes in coastal North Carolina from 2000 to 2014, ProPublica notes.

Why it matters: Florence will restart the post-storm hamster wheel. Local officials will mull whether to rebuild or to buy out residents, even with staggering losses for the uninsured and increasing liabilities for those within insurance's broad umbrella.

  • And climate change, which is raising sea levels along the shore and causing more intense inland rainstorms, is only heightening disaster risks.

A different process is playing out in Puerto Rico, the WSJ reports:

  • "Government officials say they don’t want to rebuild communities on land that is vulnerable to soil erosion, chronic flooding and destruction from future storms."
  • “'We need to move families to a safe place,' said Luis Burdiel Agudo, president of the Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico."
  • "The government is set to receive $20 billion of federal funding to rebuild ... It is giving some homeowners an ultimatum between moving and receiving funds to rebuild."

Between the lines: Mainland coastal areas like North Carolina and Houston, Texas, know these dangers exist. So, too, do those living in and governing areas vulnerable to inland flooding from slow-moving tropical storms and hurricanes, such as Harvey and Florence. Their main mechanism is the buyout.

  • "Harris County [Houston] has only bought out about 3,100 properties since 1985. That’s fewer than half the homes on the district's priority buyout list. Hurricane Harvey damaged at least 69,000 properties in the county," ProPublica reports.
  • "North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press briefing on Sunday that the state would have to 'look carefully' at buyouts of repeatedly flooded properties," the WSJ notes.

The bottom line: Expect this debate to get worse, with taxpayers on the hook for growing catastrophes and increasingly hot political battles between insurers and homeowners.

Go deeper: Florence updates, where 23 deaths have been reported

Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Bob Richling carries Iris Darden as water from the Little River starts to seep into her home today in Spring Lake, North Carolina.

2. What you missed
  1. Merger gets green light: Cigna and Express Scripts said today that antitrust officials at the Department of Justice have officially cleared their $67 billion merger.
  2. Trump is open to the Senate Judiciary Committee delaying Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process following allegations of sexual assault. Go deeper.
  3. The Trump administration delayed plans to roll out a presidential text alert system that could be used to reach all U.S. cellphones during national emergencies until October, Reuters reports.
  4. Russia and Turkey have agreed to establish a Syrian DMZ in the province of Idlib to separate rebel fighters and Syrian government forces.
3. 1 🏈 🎰 thing

Legalized sports betting is facing major concern from the collegiate sports world, the AP's David Porter and Regina Garcia-Cano report.

  • "The four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA ... have argued for years that expanding legal betting will lead to more game-fixing."
  • "College athletes are generally considered easier to convince than pros to influence games. Two reasons: they are younger and aren’t paid directly to play."
  • "Do you remember back when you were 18 to 20 years of age?” said Bob Vecchione, head of the National Association of College Directors of Athletics. “When people told you something, how much did it sink in? That’s what causes some sleepless nights.”

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