Press Releases :: July 24, 2008
(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Science and Technology Committee’s Technology and Innovation Subcommittee held a hearing to review the activities of the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP) and examine the role research and development (R&D) plays in saving lives and reducing property losses from windstorms. Witnesses discussed the current advancements in wind hazard mitigation and the process for turning research into regulations for developers, builders, and property owners to help reduce the damage caused by windstorms.
"Every year, severe winds from hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms damage or destroy thousands of homes and businesses, harm vital infrastructure, and, most importantly, threaten human life. This year is already proving to be one of the deadliest years on record for wind-related fatalities, with over 100 Americans killed in tornadoes this spring alone," stated Chairman David Wu (D-OR). "Dollar amounts vary widely on the extent of property damage and economic losses from windstorms, but since 2004, windstorms have cost the country well over $160 billion. From the more than a thousand people who lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina, to the thousands left with damaged homes in my district last December, windstorms have harmed every part of our country."
In 2004, after reports from the National Research Council (1999) and RAND (2003) recommended a well-funded, coordinated R&D framework, Congress passed the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act (PL 108-360) which established the NWIRP program. NWIRP aims to decrease the loss of life and property due to windstorms through R&D on weather phenomena and mitigation techniques.
"Since passage of the enacting legislation, the program has done little to address this very sizable problem," said Wu. "Unfortunately, NWIRP has received little attention by the Administration in terms of both funding and coordination. NWIRP expires this fiscal year, and if we are to reauthorize it, we will need to discuss how it can be changed to ensure it meets its goals of improving the safety of Americans by increasing protection from wind hazards."
NWIRP is a federal program which includes the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). Currently, the costs associated with windstorms are rising and the limited research being conducted by these agencies is not well coordinated.
According to the National Weather Research Service, high winds from natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornados are responsible for roughly 125 fatalities and over 1,600 injuries annually in the United States alone. Over the past 35 years, costs associated with damages from wind-related natural disasters have doubled or tripled each decade.
"Damage from storms is projected to increase as a greater number of Americans move to coastal areas," added Wu. "However, we are not completely powerless to reduce the losses from windstorms. Known mitigation techniques can greatly decrease the amount of wind damage—in some cases by as much as 50 to 60 percent."
Bart Gordon, Chairman
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