Federal Data Collection Efforts Ongoing for COASTAL Act Post-Storm Wind/Water Loss Model Due December 28, 2013

Jul 16, 2013


Pursuant to the Consumer Option for an Alternative System to Allocate Losses Act of 2012 (“COASTAL Act”), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”), in consultation with other agencies, has identified federal and non-federal data collection efforts that may provide information such as wind speeds, storm surge heights and other measures for a post-storm model required by the new law to be developed by December 28, 2013.

To read NOAA’s initial response to the COASTAL Act’s Post-Storm Assessment Requirements as published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) on July 11, 2013, click here.

Part of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, the COASTAL Act addresses the compilation and use of scientific data to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to allocate losses related to wind and flooding after major storms for certain properties.   It also requires NOAA to generate post-storm assessments within 90 days of certain tropical storms or hurricanes for FEMA’s use in a standard formula for allocating such losses.  To generate these assessments, NOAA is required by the COASTAL Act to develop the aforementioned post-storm model by regulation.

Of note, the COASTAL Act requires a high degree of accuracy for both the post-storm assessment and post-storm model.   However, both public and private entities have indicated that current efforts and data may not be sufficient for the model to achieve the type of estimates needed for individual structures in all locations.  For example, U.S. Geological Survey officials may not have enough mobile, temporary water level sensors to deploy in locations along the Atlantic Coast for measuring storm tide. 

Moreover, current efforts do not measure certain data that likely will be needed to model wind and water impacts on individual structures.  In particular, data on waves that occur over land on top of the storm surge are critical for assessing water damage to structures from tropical storms and hurricanes but are not currently collected.

Further, NOAA and other agencies do not typically collect cost information on specific types of storm or weather data, such as wind speed, that reflects the expense for all activities involved in collecting and using the data.  Federal regulators said that their storm data collection efforts typically collect multiple types of data, and that the costs for processing, analyzing and storing the data are calculated for all data types, rather than a single one.  Agencies then incorporate the cost information they do collect on their storm data collection efforts into the costs of major programs and projects, such as activities related to responding to a major hurricane. For example, detailed cost information was gathered on activities related to collecting data on storm tide, barometric pressure and high water mark levels during Hurricane Sandy.

NOAA, in consultation with Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology, is required to identify federal and state efforts, as well as domestic private and academic efforts that are capable of collecting the type of data necessary to develop the post-storm model and assessment, evaluate their coverage gaps, and report to Congress a plan for collecting the covered data.

During the mandatory GAO review, NOAA was still in the process of developing the post-storm model and determining which data collection efforts would be required. The GAO determined that its review would examine (1) storm data collection efforts that NOAA has identified that may provide the covered data for the COASTAL Act storm model and (2) the extent to which selected federal agencies collect cost information on their storm data collection efforts.

To accomplish its review, the GAO reviewed agency and COASTAL Act planning documents from an interagency work group.  It also interviewed officials from NOAA, OFCM, USGS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Coast Guard.   Representatives from a university, a non-profit organization and a pre-identified private company were also consulted.

No recommendations are being made at this time by the GAO.


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