Miami and Virginia Beach are “are the top two areas of the country most at risk for residential…”

Miami and Virginia Beach are “are the top two areas of the country most at risk for residential…”.

Numbers like $39 billion do not seem to connect with most people in Virginia Beach, myself included. But, I can envision what a CAT2-3 hurricane could do to our community and my house. The thought of such losses can be daunting, but consider what you can do to limit the potential loss. And, that is what we are attempting to do at SDCC. We can’t give you a complete cure all package, but we can at least work to inform you how to limit the damages. We won’t pack your “go kit” for you, but we will tell you what you will need in it.

Shore Drive Area Storm Preparations for Arthur

As Virginia Beach seems to be in the sites of Arthur, consider what precautions that you should take. Storm forecasting is still an art and not totally a science. It is possible to be told that it will be “mostly a rain event” with tropical storm winds of gale force, but storms and their tracks change quickly. Sometimes the last minute shift in course or intensity is to our advantage, sometimes not so. Consider the following preparations:
1. Do not leave your car in an area that floods easily. You can relocate your car to North Great Neck Road to one of the school parking lots. The Great Neck area is high enough so it should not flood.
2. Put some water in containers in your freezer in case power is lost. It helps keep things cold if power should be lost, and will also serve as drinking water if needed.
3. Check your flashlights and battery supply. The new LED type flashlights are 4 times brighter and the batteries last 10 times longer. Great source for light. Know where your flashlights are located.
4. Look at the areas around your house which could flood and make sure nothing valuable or potentially hazardous could get wet (lawn fertilizer, pool chemicals, tools etc.). And don’t forget to bring in all the lawn furniture.
5. If a room floods and the wall board gets wet, the wet wall board should be removed quickly so it will not damage more wall board. If the insulation gets wet remove it also, BUT wear gloves as this stuff itches. If you have to remove a lot of insulation, wear a face mask to prevent breathing the insulation fibers.
6. PERSONAL SAFETY. Don’t drive in water that comes to the bottom of your car’s doors (8 or more inches). You can’t plow through it and the water will come up over your hood. If you get water in your engine (sucked into engine intake), you may have to buy a new engine. When you don’t know how deep the water, go around or go back. Don’t use a BBQ grill in the garage or house as the the carbon-monoxide fumes can kill you and your pets. CO fumes are heavier than CO2, so CO fumes will sink and collect in the lower parts of your house. BE careful. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. If there are down power lines, consider them HOT and LETHAL. Tree branches CAN conduct electricity, as can metal fences, so don’t touch them if your neighborhood has a power outage.
7. Watch out for one another. BE GOOD Neighbors and don’t create wakes on your road. These wakes can do damage to adjacent homes. If you are going away from the area, let your neighbor know in case of damage to your house.
Let us all hope for the best. Our lawns need some rain, but let’s hope the winds are mild and the rains are only refreshing.

Thank You’s and Amens!

Please accept my humble thank you’s for all your well wishes and get well cards following my recent health issue.  While my body feels OK, I still am not fully recovered from the kick that my body gave me. With a broader perspective on both the down side and up side of this existence, I can only feel so blessed and special.  I thought that I had been doing all the right things that would increase my life’s margins, but  I was proven wrong. Now, I am getting back up and getting my momentum back. I know that there are a lot more people out there living a lot closer to the edge and would never let anyone know.  I am so grateful and feel so blessed and lucky to be on this side.  Thank you all.  



Flood Insurance Program and Shore Drive Area Sustainability

The recent article in the Virginian-Pilot ((Obama to sign bipartisan bill to ease flood insurance woes 3/15/2014) only hints at some of the problems that FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is experiencing.  The hurricanes and N’or Easters that have struck the coastal areas over the last twenty years have drained FEMA NFIP bank. Numerous articles have said that the NFIP premiums for those living in flood prone areas was going up, but by how much?  A recent hint said 40%, or more.  Some sources said that potential rates to fund the NFIP would increase thousands of dollars, to the point where most of the insured would feel a significant pinch like a ballooning second mortgage with a variable rate.

I have personally seen the near collapse of some coastal real estate markets (Florida comes to mind) when Flood Insurance policies are either not renewed, issued or become prohibitively expensive.  Under such conditions, owners must either sell at a huge loss, cannot sell their property, or prospective buyers cannot find flood insurance as required by their mortgage company.  This real estate bubble collapse directly impacts owners, buyers, city and state tax revenues, and all the associated elected officials.  Many parties lose when structures are inadequately built in a flood hazard area. Many previous and current local building codes for coastal areas are not substantial enough to reasonably ensure that structures could withstand flood waters and winds from a potential CAT 3 hurricane. Many builders and city officials call “building to code” adequate and sufficient, yet many insurers are not so free with that classification.  What happens when current building code are found to be insufficient by the insurance companies?  Insurance rates will either get prohibitively expensive or policies will not be issued. 

Faced with significant premium increases for NFIP subscribers, many coastal dwellers have complained to their lawmakers.  Under pending legislation, increases have been rolled back and future rate increases will be limited to just 18% per year.   Some home owners in flood prone areas (statistically a 1% chance or more of flooding per year) have been given a reprieve this year, but can now expect significantly higher rates in the coming years. 

 The days of small cinderblock summer cottage along Shore Drive and North Beach areas are gone as they have been replaced with pricey homes and condos.  It is fair to expect that NFIP rates will keep on increasing until some reasonable balance between the insured and the insurers is achieved. But, who should reasonably pay either directly or indirectly for the NFIP premiums for such precarious living?  More importantly, for the many of us who live in or near flood prone areas, what can be done to improve the storm worthiness of our homes or to improve our city’s building codes? We just cannot rely on the builders to do it, or many local politicians who receive their campaign funding and support from the builders’ and bankers’ clique. 

We will all have to get a lot smarter about the NFIP, coastal building codes, and the stressors of coastal living. We must push for improvements in the quality of our city’s construction, strengthened storm codes, and improved knowledge on the part of owners and landlords. We should consider reasonably retrofitting our homes for improved sustainability, or asking our builders about what methods they will use to improve building survivability, like having a 10 year “bumper to bumper warranty.  I think being told that the building “meets code” just won’t suffice any more.  When told that to incorporate improved and reasonable storm mitigation upgrades would be cost prohibitive, we should just ask the builder if he would then underwrite future NFIP premiums?  We don’t need to live concrete bomb shelters, but we can do a much better job asking questions and making reasonable improvements.  Builders and city officials can do their part.   And, we can become better informed, and then ask the right questions until both we and the insurance companies are satisfied. 

Sad Passing of Daniel Creedon

It is with sadness that we speak of the recent passing of Dan Creedon, a man of boundless energy and commitment to civic and environmental issues at so many levels.  Whether working at the Lynnhaven River Now oyster seeding project, guiding Shore Drive Community Coalition in its formative years, or bringing world attention to the Haitian relief effort, Dan seemed to be everywhere and involved in so much of  humanity and the environment.  He never slowed his pursuit of where he felt he needed to be in this world to make it a better place for humanity and a lasting renewable resource for all to find wonder. Rest in peace.

Plans for Osprey Point Nature Park

One of the projects Dan helped formulate was Plans for Osprey Point Nature Park

(Graphic added February 14 2014 by Tim)

SDCC Priorities for 2014

What do our  Shore Drive Community Coalition members want from us in 2014?   What should  SDCC focus on this year? Discussions indicate that some members want us to remain local in focus (Lesner Bridge, Neighborhood Dredging, Shore Drive Storm Water issues, Lynnhaven Estuary Water quality), while others think we need a wider focus (Light Rail, City Budget, Convention Center, etc.).   Obviously, with a limited staff and a time-strapped membership, our resources are tight.  Our ability to tackle only a few key issues would  allow us better focus if we are going to have any chance at having an impact.

Reading the news, we can see some of the looming financial issues of city,  Commonwealth, and Federal government actions.   No one should be that naive to think that the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obama Care), Public-Private Ventures with Elizabeth River Crossing, and this city’s Light Rail project will have only a minimal impact on our personal and family financial resources.  Many may be sadly awakened if they think that it is only the Portsmouth people and the daily tunnel traffic  commuters that will feel the direct effects of the Commonwealth’s approved Public-Private Venture (PPV) with Elizabeth River Crossing. Previous Governor McDonnell bypassed the State Assembly and signed an agreement that guarantees the private company a 13.5 % profit margin from collected toll revenues per year for decades.

In an effort to make a significant change in the state’s funding of transportation projects, outgoing Governor McDonnell has added to our individual future state tax burden.  How so? Our state’s Constitution requires a balanced budget and any projected deficits must be paid for with either higher taxes, increased fees,  cuts in state programs, or any combination thereof.  There is no state or Federal governmental “Free lunch”.  Someone with money will pay.  Ominously, we may find that this Public-Private Venture business model with guaranteed double digit profits for the owners may be applied to future major state and city projects for more tunnels, bridges, convention centers, hotel renovations, and road projects.

How do we prevent such lopsided projects and outrageous private company’s profits?  Who’s voice will be saying “unfair, unjust, and outrageous “?  How do we find a voice that our city or state government will listen to?   Together, we can be heard and have an impact.  Civic actions start locally when neighbors come together, gather the facts, attend civic meetings and attend City Council meetings.  Informing ourselves with the facts, passing the information, and taking a stand takes from our time, but not speaking out against egregious state and city actions will only take, and continue to take from our wallets and our EZ Passes.


Commonwealth of VA Senate Bill 926 SHUTDOWN!

Senator McWaters has just informed me at 9:28 pm TONIGHT that SB926 will be dropped tomorrow due to the opposition voiced by so many of our civic organizations. He said the bill needs more study and was not ready for prime time. YES!!!!!!! The voice of the citizens CAN be heard when we have dedicated people to group together, inform our members, and collectively express our voice. I thank ALL of you who have voiced your concerns during this intense negotiating period. WELL DONE!

And to Senator McWaters and his very hard working staff, WE THANK YOU!!!!!