PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: Sandy’s victims can benefit from li’l ole us

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Late last week, as I talked to my lawyer son in Jackson, I joked that he should walk down the hall to a specific partner in his firm and speak these words to him:
Wind or water?
Of course, for anyone who was affected or even tangentially involved with insurance companies or living since Hurricane Katrina, this phrase is key to whether or how much storm victims can regain for their property damage.
I jokingly suggested the law firm make plans fast to set up a Big Apple office to be staffed by all Mississippi’s attorneys with Katrina experience.
My little “joke” came just days after the New England, New York and New Jersey coasts – and well inland were pummeled by Hurricane Sandy or her remnants.
From the looks of the news photos and video footage, the storm’s devastation is tremendous, Katrina-like.
Added to the vast shoreline destruction is the massive inland water damage.
After Katrina, Mississippi’s inland damage was considerable, especially from the wind, but heavy rains did their share.
While I might have been only slightly joking about the law firm and the “wind or water” question, I wasn’t kidding that Sandy’s victims and the affected communities and states are about to learn something we all learned seven years ago: Nobody was prepared to be adequately insured against its ravages.
Rebuilding the Gulf Coast region lagged while local and state officials sought to figure out how best to do it. A chief issue was the realization that we could not rebuild as we were before Katrina. We had to be stronger and more able to weather the weather.
What sense did it make just to rush back in, rebuild like before and then be swept away with the next tidal surge and 120-mph winds?
But the price for smarter rebuilding still smarts for the Gulf Coast region. Building higher and stronger, if you’re allowed to rebuild at all, is very expensive. Securing new insurance sometimes is prohibitive.
The good people of New England, New York and New Jersey are facing these same issues.
They will want to rush back in and rebuild their lives as soon as possible. You can’t blame them for seeking normalcy as quickly as possible.
But it shouldn’t be that simple. We learned that out of great difficulties.Our changing climate demands that we re-evaluate how we build almost anything from now on.
How can it be stronger and how can we plan ahead to mitigate the new Mother Nature?
No doubt, insurance companies and emergency management planners will demand it.
Political officials will face the same difficult decisions up East as our Gulf Coast leaders did. The responses are not always politically popular.
It’s good to see that emergency management teams from Mississippi are lending a hand there now. But what about the future?
For once, we Southerners have something our brethren should solicit – sound advice borne out of the crucible of tragedy.
We have stared into the face of the wind and water, and we have valuable experience to share.
Let’s hope the leaders of Sandy’s millions of victims will ask for a hand, from us, for a change.
Patsy R. Brumfield writes a Thursday column. Contact her at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com. Follow her on Twitter @realnewsqueen.