Ladies and Gentlemen:
A major hurricane striking the Houston area is the greatest risk we face. A Category 5 storm making landfall around Freeport would mostly likely result in thousands of deaths and billions in property damage. We have known for some time that statistically it is just a matter of time until we are faced with this disaster.
When I served on the Governor's and HGAC's Task Forces on Evacuations I was dismayed how frequently we were confronted with questions for which there was simply no answer. Some questions were simple,
such as, how many nursing homes are located in the surge zone? Others, such as how does the tidal surge affect upland flooding, were more complex.
We learned that other states have established hurricane research centers to conduct studies on how the adverse affects of these storms can be prevented. Also a number of other disaster research centers have been established for earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and tornados. Few of these disasters equal the devastation that our area would face from a major hurricane. It seemed to those of us that served on the task forces a little ridiculous that we had not set up such a research center here. As a result, this was a recommendation of both task forces.
In response to these recommendations, Senator Kyle Janek and State Representative Dennis Bonham have introduced legislation to establish the Center for Severe Storm Prevention Education and Evacuation from Disaster ("SSPEED"). SPPEED will be a joint project of Rice, UH, TSU, Texas A&M and other universities. The proposal does not call for a new building or staff, just grant dollars to finance research that will help us mitigate the affects of a major storm. The initial funding is a modest $3 million per year. Scientists putting this proposal together believe they will be able to leverage these funds with additional grants from FEMA and the insurance industry.
Considering that we, as a region, will face billions of dollars in losses from such a disaster, it seems that the investments of a few million each year to find ways to minimize these losses is a reasonable investment. I hope that you agree and will contact your state representative or senator and let them know that you support the legislation establishing this center.
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