Sep 17, 2018

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 2000-2014, 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

Go deeper

Pompeo tells Congress Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Wednesday that he has certified to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China and does not warrant special treatment under U.S. law.

Why it matters: Revoking Hong Kong's special status would hasten its economic and financial decline, already set in motion by China's growing political grip on the city. The preferential status that the U.S. has long granted Hong Kong has made the city a top U.S. trading partner.

Go deeper (1 min. read)ArrowUpdated 26 mins ago - World

Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump

Twitter came under fire on Tuesday for allowing President Trump to tweet conspiracy theories about Joe Scarborough and the 2001 death of one of his staffers, despite the objections of the staffer's family. The company came under further fire from Trump himself for fact-checking two of his tweets about mail-in voting.

Dan and the New York Times' Kara Swisher dig into Trump’s use of the platform and Twitter’s steps — and missteps — in handling it.

Go deeper: Trump has turned Big Tech's speech rules into a political football

52 mins ago - Technology

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 5,618,829 — Total deaths: 351,146 — Total recoveries — 2,311,404Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 1,681,793 — Total deaths: 98,933 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Public health: Fauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine — Nearly half of Americans say someone in their household has delayed medical care.
  4. Tech: Zipline drones deliver masks to hospitals; vaccines could be next
  5. Business: Boeing to lay off 6,770 more U.S. employees.
  6. 🏒Sports: NHL unveils 24-team playoff plan to return from hiatus.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy