Storm damage 2010: States ring up the cost
Federal help for winter storm damage is on the way to 35 areas in the US. Recovery hits state and local budgets hard.
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This snow season was also expensive for those retailers who lost sales because consumers could not get to the malls. According to Mr. Bernhardt, the average retailer can make up only about two-thirds of lost sales. Once consumers get back on the road, they mainly concentrate on the basics and forgo impulse sales.Skip to next paragraph
“The winter probably sapped the economy, but not in a major way,” he says, noting that construction projects were delayed, especially in the South.
“It’s not something that can slow down the economy’s momentum,” Mr. Gault says. “It is extremely resilient to even very big shocks like hurricanes.”
But no doubt some areas felt as if they had been hit by a hurricane.
As the storms rolled in this winter, they often took a big toll on beaches. In some coastal areas of California, the beaches have been decimated, says Kim Sterrett of the California Department of Boating and Waterways. “Sand levels are way down, the beaches are a lot narrower, and in certain areas the waves have stripped away all usable beach,” he says.
“If we continue to get a loss of sand, we could see significant property damage, infrastructure damage to city streets, and a lot of added maintenance cost,” says Mr. Wade, who notes that another cost could be the loss of tourism. Thirty percent of beach visitors are from out of town.
In 2003, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the expenditure of $50 million to $90 million over 50 years for beach replenishment at Imperial Beach. But Congress has yet to authorize the spending. “We go to lobby Congress every year, but we’ve been told unless our representative is staunchly behind it, our chances are not strong,” Wade says.
On the other side of the US, the Borough of Avalon has dug into its own pockets to the tune of $4.2 million to replace sand. It is in large part a matter of economic survival: On a summer day, 40,000 people visit the town, half of them spending time on the beach.
“We will have a beach this summer,” says Andrew Bednarek, the borough’s business administrator.
Around the country this winter, storms dumped huge amounts of moisture, some of it freezing and then thawing on roads. As a result, many communities need to do massive pothole repair.
“We’re even seeing damage in places like Alabama, where they have never had roadway damage like this before,” says Ken Kobetsky, a highway repair expert at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Washington.
“There were some states that were in trouble [financially] even before the winter,” he says. “Even if emergency money is made available from Congress, getting it is not easy: Some states are still waiting for other emergency funds from last year.”