Hurricane season is in full swing and it is on the minds of many citizens in South Mississippi and along the Gulf Coast just what exactly is the plan of action in the unfortunate happenstance that a tropical storm or hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall while oil is on the surface of the Gulf. The potential for oil to be pushed ashore by storm surge or even to be rained down is extremely worrisome. With the now impending threat of Tropical Storm Bonnie, our worries will be tested and our worst fears could come to life.
Having experienced the fury of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the subsequent difficulty of many in South Mississippi and Louisiana in handling their insurance claims, this scenario must be at the forefront of the minds of FEMA, state emergency managers, BP, the state Insurance Commissioners, NFIP administrators and of course, the insurance industry.
Informing the public now of the plan should such a worst case scenario occur along with providing some assurance that their investments are safe, insured, and protected should be acted upon immediately. If oil is blown onto vehicles and homes inland or storm surge pushes oil ashore and onto private property, who is the responsible party and who should that property owner contact? What agency will coordinate the response? Is there a mechanism in place to support such claims? These and many other questions must find a listening, concerned ear. It is past time for answers; hurricane season started June 1st, it’s now mid-July. Any delays and confusion regarding insurance, recovery, and local, state, and federal assistance and coordination will further exacerbate the damages.
The Obama administration has already added insult to injury during the oil spill by imposing an offshore drilling moratorium. The federal government has used the oil spill as a political football and has allowed this unfortunate accidental disaster in the Gulf to shape our nation’s future energy policy in terms of off shore drilling and thus essentially taken food off the tables of so many along the Gulf Coast causing an additional tragedy while harming our country’s ability to ever achieve true energy independence.
The Gulf Coast should not have to deal with another slap in the face. We have shown our resilience and fortitude time and time again, especially over the last five years. Now is the time to respond to our concerns and worries along the Gulf Coast, not after another disaster. The White House and Gulf Coast state leaders should step up and lead now. Thankfully at this time Tropical Storm Bonnie is not projected to reach hurricane strength but I would encourage a concerted effort of informing the public now at this opportunity of what the plan and coverage avenues are should oil come ashore as a result of tropical activity. Ease all of our minds on the Gulf Coast; we deserve it.
Frank Corder is a Pascagoula, Miss., city councilman.