Good morning and thank you Chairwoman Stevens for holding this hearing. And thank you to our expert panel for taking the time to share your expertise on this important topic, given its critical importance across the country and particularly in my home state of Florida. I look forward to today’s discussion.
I am pleased to see the Committee’s continued interest in improving our understanding of natural hazards as we continue our review of the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, also known as NWIRP today. All 50 states are impacted by windstorm hazards such as tornadoes, tropical storms, hurricanes, and thunderstorms, and these storms and their associated flooding are the largest loss-producing natural hazards in the United States.
We Floridians are very familiar with extreme weather events. Over the last five years, my home state has been severely impacted by intense hurricane seasons. Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 made landfall in my district and caused over $100 billion in estimated damages. After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992 and destroyed over 125,000 homes, state and local officials acted to establish stronger building codes to make Florida’s buildings more resilient to hurricane-force winds. I am proud to see that Florida stepped up to keep Floridians safer from extreme weather.
We have already seen record-breaking costs from severe hurricanes and windstorms, and the Congressional Budget Office projects annual losses from hurricanes will increase from .16 percent of GDP to .22 percent of GDP by 2075.
NWIRP was established by Congress in 2004 to help reduce the loss of life and property from severe windstorms and its work has never been more important. NWIRP provides a coordinated federal response by working with different levels of government, academia, and the private sector to conduct research and development. These activities help us to gain greater insights into windstorms and their impacts. Even more importantly, they help us develop and implement voluntary, cost-effective mitigation measures like better engineering techniques, communications tools, and risk assessments.
In the nearly two decades since NWIRP was created, federal science agencies have made great strides. The National Institute of Standards and Technology leads research to improve building codes and standards. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to improve forecasting techniques for extreme weather.
The National Science Foundation supports a broad range of basic research in atmospheric sciences and engineering, including through the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure program. The NSF also supports the Wall of Wind at Florida International University, which allows for researchers to test to failure full-sized structures such as manufactured housing and small commercial structures. Such research will lay the groundwork for developing risk-based and performance-based design criteria, leading to more sustainable coastal communities.
While progress has been made to improve our understanding of windstorms, knowledge gaps still remain. It is critical that we continue to support this life-saving research and development to help better prepare for these severe weather events.
I would like to thank our witnesses again for their participation today.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield back.