Sunday in Oklahoma was a bad day for tornadoes. Even as it ended, though, forecasters remained on alert for the Oklahoma City area.
“We may be dealing with more of this tomorrow,” National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Smith told The Daily Oklahoma Sunday night. “Monday is going to be another round of severe weather. A lot of the key ingredients we had today haven’t gone anywhere…Certainly, we hope we don’t see anything like this again, but we’re going to be ready for it.”
Mr. Smith is based in the southeast suburb of Norman. Between Norman and Oklahoma City lies Moore. On Monday afternoon, a tornado blasted Moore with a force locals compared to that from a devastating twister in 1999. And so began the sadly familiar drill. Crews searching the debris for survivors. A call from the president pledging federal aid.
When Hurricane Sandy scoured the shorelines of New Jersey and New York last fall, some members of Congress huffed and puffed that the $51 billion in requested assistance should be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. They eventually lost. The bill for Monday’s tornado will be far less, though the level of destruction is just as profound, but we predict that this time there will be no such silly debate. In its place, though, we would suggest — as we have for a decade — that Congress debate the idea of catastrophic disaster insurance.
With such a program, responses to natural disasters wouldn’t be a drain on the treasury, however compassionate the assistance is. The government would underwrite private bonds to cover damage from worst-case scenarios. When Ron Klein and Tim Mahoney represented Palm Beach County, they actually got such a plan through the U.S. House. It never got a vote in the Senate, and it remains misunderstood by many opponents.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., represents Moore. Speaking Tuesday on NPR, he praised President Barack Obama for his quick offer of help. Rep. Cole noted that he had voted for the Sandy aid, saying of his district, “We’re just one tornado away from being Joplin,” referring to the Missouri city where a tornado last year killed 158 people.
In 2007, though, Rep. Cole was one of the votes against what then-Reps. Klein and Mahoney called the “Homeowners Defense Act.” Some lawmakers see the plan as too Florida-centric. Given what scientists have concluded is more frequent catastrophic events, driven by climate change, Washington should consider this a national problem. We will be dealing with more of this, in many places.
for The Post Editorial Board