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We need to quiz candidates about weather disasters (Sept. 10, 2011)

posted Sep 11, 2011, 7:21 PM by Rob Hogg
In this letter to the editor that appeared in the Des Moines Register on Saturday, September 10, 2011, Margaret Weiner of Urbandale asks Iowans to talk to Presidential candidates about how they will respond to the growing numbers of climate-related disasters.

I’m remembering Richard Doak’s Oct. 21, 2010, column in the Register, “Weather-Related Disasters: The new Normal?” Today’s news tells us that already this year the United States has had a record 10 weather catastrophes costing more than a billion dollars.

These include five tornado outbreaks, major river floods in the upper Midwest and the Mississippi River, extreme drought in the Southwest, a blizzard that blasted the Midwest and Northeast and then Irene.

FEMA records show an increased frequency of severe climate events in the United States in just the past three years. The average number of federal disaster declarations per year since 1953 is 34. The three-year U.S. average for 2008, 2009, 2010 is over 71.

Iowa had four federal disaster declarations in 2010. In 2011 we have already had two, and Gov. Terry Branstad recently requested another one. A lot of us Iowans have benefited from federal and state help toward recovery from calamitous weather events. Some recently affected are hoping to see some aid soon.

In case this may be the new normal, we need to find out what answers all candidates on the campaign trail have for questions like these: What do you see as the role of federal government in providing relief to communities hit by natural disasters? Do you support a federal budget that includes disaster relief for states? What is your plan for addressing these events and their causes?

— Margaret Weiner, Urbandale