The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia on September 21, 1989 · 7
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The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia · 7

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Atlanta, Georgia
Issue Date:
Thursday, September 21, 1989
Page:
7
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, THURS., SEPTEMBER 21 . 19t9 Sfct AUn U laurnat AND COWSTmmON A-7 HUGO: THE WATCH IN GEORGIA Big Plans for the Weekend Likely Will Be All Wet, Courtesy of Hugo Federal Flood Insurance Set For Wipeout Major Damage Means Paying From Treasury ByMikeChristensen Journd-Coiutitution Washington Bureau WASHINGTON - A major hurricane could wipe out the federal government's flood insurance program and cost taxpayers more than $4 billion to pay claims, according to a report by two environmental groups. r lii Florida, $57 billion worth of insurance policies backed by the National Flood Insurance Program are in force, $2.5 billion of them in "high hazard" zones along the coast, the report said. Coastal residents of Georgia have bought $636 million of insurance from the program. A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the flood insurance program, acknowledged Wednesday that a major storm, or a series of storms this year, would erase the program's $500 million cash reserve as well as $1 billion more that it could draw from the federal Treasury, j "It is very possible that if we get a blow from a Hugo across the middle of Florida, where we have an enormous number of policies, that reserve could be gone," spokesman David Cobb said. It has been only in the past two years, with drought more common than flood, that the program has been able to build up a cash reserve at all. For most of its 21 years, the program has had to borrow and seek federal subsidies to pay its claims. This week's report by the National Wildlife Federation and the Coast Alliance also asserts that while the flood insurance plan was designed to discourage waterside development, cheap rates and lax rules have instead encouraged coastal construction. Average premiums range from $262 to $469 a year. Since 1966, the IB I W.A. BRIDGES JR.Staff Dwayne Thomas cleans up after boarding up his parents' house on Tybee Island. The hurricane is expected to hit this small island community off the coast of Georgia, possibly by tonight. report said, the number of homes in hazardous areas has increased by 40 percent. Congress established the program in 1968 with a "carrot and stick" approach, the report said, offering federally backed insurance to communities that agreed to guide future development away from beaches and flood plains through their planning powers. However, FEMA "is not enforcing current regulations and hasn't made the regulations stiff enough," said Elise Jones, coastal barrier project coordinator for the Wildlife Federation. "They've totally focused on construction codes, making buildings 'flood proof,' but they aren't guiding development out of these high-hazard areas," Ms. Jones said, "so buildings are still getting wiped out by hurricanes, and the people who live in those buildings are still at risk, not to mention the environmental damage." i According to Mr. Cobb, however, the program was not designed to prevent waterside development. Communities that joined the program, he said, "must require that any new construction in areas of special flood hazard be constructed in such a way as to reduce future flood losses." In most cases, Mr. Cobb said, that was accomplished by "elevating the buildings." Hugo Picks Up Speed as It Bears Down on U.S. From Page Al declared a state of emergency at 8 p.m. Wednesday but as of midnight had not issued an evacuation order for residents of Hilton Head and the surrounding islands. But authorities said they were advising residents and vacationers to leave. The decision to impose an evacuation order may be handed down at 6:15 a.m. today, said Richard Val-landingham, a spokesman for the Beaufort County Emergency Preparedness Department. "Voluntary evacuation is in effect," said Mr. Vallandingham. "I can tell you now the Daufuskie Islanders are off the island." If Hugo hits St. Simons head-on, "It would be the insurance industry's worst nightmare," said a Glynn County insurance agent. "There's $100 million worth of homes just in one new subdivision," said the agent, who asked not to be identified. In recent years, dozens of new subdivisions, most with homes selling for more than $100,001, have been built on St. Simons, one of the few heavily-developed barrier islands. "If it stays at the same intensity, we would evacuate Tybee, Whit-marsh, Wilmington and Rio Vista and Skidaway islands, and move residents into the city," said Chatham County Civil Defense Director Lewis Dotson. "Right now we're talking about a Category 2 storm," which would mean tides 4 to 7 feet above normal at Tybee Island, he said. "We think all the islands would be inundated with 2, 3, 4 feet of water. That's why we recommend evacuation if the storm hits," Mr. Dotson said. Most people would be able to stay with family and friends, but nearly 8,000 would be expected at public shelters, he said. In Charleston, S.C., 20 Navy ships and submarines left port Tuesday and Wednesday to ride out the storm at sea. Another 17 Navy ships were preparing to steam from Mayport, Fla., if the storm appeared likely to threaten the area. Once Hurricane Hugo comes ashore, meteorologists say, strong air currents blowing from the south are expected to push it northward. Its impact from that point, they say, depends largely on how far inland it penetrates before starting what is expected to be a northerly journey along the coast. "Whether it is 100 or 150 miles inland when it does that, or whether it skirts the coastline, will say a lot about the kind of weather folks will experience farther north," said Frederick J. Gadomski, meteorolo- W.A. BRIDGESStaff Mable Padget of Jackson, Ga., takes a picture of her daughter, April, in front of the Tybee City Hall on Wednesday as the island near Savannah battens down for approaching Hurricane Hugo. gist at the Weather Communications Group at Pennsylvania State University. "Some place on the East Coast, now unknown and unnameable, will get an awful lot of rain," Mr. Gadomski said. "Flooding rains." Although Glynn County's populated barrier islands Jekyll, St. Simons and Sea Island have been brushed by storms in past years, the last time the three islands were inundated by tidal waters was more than a centurv ago. Although most island homeowners carry federal flood insurance, about one-third are insured against rising water damage only on the homes themselves and not on the contents, according to the agent. "These people just bought the coverage required by the lending institutions that financed their property," the agent said. "We've been getting frantic calls for the past few days from people who want to upgrade their coverage, but there's a five-day waiting period, so if the storm actually hits, it won't do them much good." On Sea Island, 60 or 70 "cottages," including the $10 million resort home built a few years ago by Atlanta architect John Portman, front directly on a beach ravaged by erosion in recent years. "There's no telling what could happen," said Dewey Benefield, executive vice president of the Sea Island Co. "We'll have plenty of lead time to get the people off the island, but other than boarding up the windows and putting up the outdoor furniture, there's not much we can do." Tybee Island Mayor Walter Parker said the last hurricane to hit 1 the island directly was in 1947, when most of the island was flooded. "If we get a storm surge here with Hugo, it could be very costly," Mayor Parker said. "We've had millions of dollars worth of new construction since 1947." In addition, city hall is a scant block from Tybee beach and the city's public safety building is directly on the water. "We've already boarded up the windows at city hall," Mayor Parker said. "If they predict we'll get a storm surge, we'll move most of our fire trucks, vital records and police cars to high ground in Savannah." Chatham County public schools were closed today so school buses would be available for evacuation of the islands. "The schools weren't let out because the weather will be bad that soon, but because we'll need the school buses to move people before the weather gets bad," Mayor Parker said. In recent years, federal flood insurance regulations have required all new buildings in flood hazard zones to be built of hurricane-resistant materials at elevations higher than flood levels anticipated during severe storms. But since the coast has not been hit by a hurricane since the flood regulations went into effect, nobody knows whether the new construction standards will be enough to protect coastal properties. Staff writer Jeanne Cummings, The Associated Press and The New York Times contributed to this article. By Scott Bronstein Stiiff Writer Whatever landfall Hurricane Hugo makes, Metro Atlanta and the rest of the state are in for a wet weekend. If the 110-mph storm comes ashore north of Georgia, rains are expected to be lighter but they will still blanket the state, John Zimmerman, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said Wednesday. "We are expecting rain over the entire state from this storm, irre-gardless of whether it goes ashore to the north or south of us," Mr. Zimmerman said. Rain should begin falling in southeast Georgia sometime today, Mr. Zimmerman said. The weather service is predicting a 60 to 70 percent likelihood that the rain will continue through Saturday and Sunday, he said. If the storm moves quickly over land, the rain might begin easing in the southeastern part of the state sometime Saturday, he said. Low temperatures for the state in the 60s or 70s and highs in the 80s are expected. "A tropical storm like this comes out of a warm environment and certainly won't bring cold temperatures with it," Mr. Zimmerman said. "We have very dry air over us now, providing pleasantly cool mornings. As the clouds and rain develop, the air over Georgia now will be replaced with more tropical air and more humidity by Friday or Saturday." Hugo's heavy rain and strong winds would bring mixed blessings to Georgia farmers, who are beginning to harvest crops. Pecans are the most susceptible to wind damage right now, said Larry E. Snipes, state statistician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service in Athens. Wind and rain could damage the cotton crop because the bolls are open, he said. The state's biggest cash crop, peanuts, is 40 percent harvested. Weekend Events . . . Weather Permitting The following events near the East Coast and in Atlanta are still scheduled: Georgia Tech vs. South Carolina at Columbia, S C., 7 p.m. Mississippi State vs. Georgia at Athens, 1 p.m. Maryland vs. Clemson at Clemson, S.C, noon Virginia Union vs. Savannah State at Savannah, 1: p.m. North Carolina vs. North Carolina State at Raleigh, NC 1 p.m. Georgia Southern's game against Middle Tennessee State at Statesboro was moved from Saturday to tonight for ESPN television. tporte In Atlanta Florida A&M vs. Tennessee State at Grant Field. Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds Saturday and Sunday at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Gus Macker 3 on 3 basketball tournament Saturday and Sunday at Woodruff Park. Other major events The Atlanta Greek Festival, Saturday and Sunday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation at 2500 Clairmont Road (633-5870). A 10K Hunger Walk to benefit agencies that help feed the hungry, scheduled for Sunday at Bedford Pine Park, behind the Atlanta Civic Center, 395 Piedmont Ave. (892-FEED). The Cherokee Indian Homecoming, scheduled for Saturday at the former national capital of New Echota, one mile east of I-75 north at exit 131 near Calhoun (404-629-8151). The Dalton Creative Arts Guild Festival, scheduled for the weekend at 520 Waugh St., Dalton (404-278-0168). The Oktoberfest in Helen, events scheduled through the weekend (404-878-2181). Riverfest '89, an arts and crafts festival, scheduled for the weekend in Boling Park, Canton (404-479-6650). Yields could be reduced if Hugo dumps lots of rain on the nuts when they are left on top of the ground for drying before harvest, Mr. Snipes said. Soybeans could be damaged by high winds, but the bean yield could shoot up if the crop got rain now because it is almost ready for harvest, he said. A number of outdoor athletic events, festivals or other activities scheduled in Georgia for the weekend may be affected by the storm. Georgia Tech is making contingency travel plans for its game against South Carolina in Columbia Saturday night, including the possibility of taking buses to the game in stead of a chartered plane. In Columbia, 150 miles from the South Carolina coast, Gamecocks officials are monitoring the storm closely. A 1951 home game against The Citadel was postponed because of a hurricane. Last year, fearing for the safety of his team, Alabama coach Bill Curry kept the Crimson Tide from traveling to a game against Texas A&M in College Station during Hurricane Gilbert. As it turned out, the hurricane had no impact on the weather in College Station. Staff writers Robert Snowden Jones and I.J. Rosenberg contributed to this article. ;aaS lyr. ' f iuglfclf fllTT'111''1 Lorac ii tf)JUW t lumtv Dinner out? Make it the dinner suit. IT'S WHAT YOU'LL WEAR WITH NO RESERVATIONS Lorac's two-piece bengaline dinner suit is a confident choice. Surplice double peplum top is piped in black. Jewel tone floral on top accents a slimming black skirt. Both with the seasonless versatility of rayon. Sizes 14V2-22V2. $96. Women's World -all stores i

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