Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Storm, mitigation claims checked by Truth-O-Meters

The Pinstripe Brass band plays at the top of a levee to commemorate an earlier anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The Pinstripe Brass band plays at the top of a levee to commemorate an earlier anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

After the devastation caused this week by Hurricane Sandy, 2011’s Tropical Strom Irene might seem a bit of a distant memory for some.

Catastrophic storms and their consequences are not unknown topics on the PolitiFact New Jersey and national Truth-O-Meters. PolitiFact New Jersey and our colleagues at PolitiFact National and PolitiFact Florida have looked at a number of claims relating to devastation caused by hurricanes and claims by national political figures debating the need for mitigation funding. We recap some storm-related claims here.

Irene versus Ike

Jersey Central Power &Light, one of New Jersey’s main power companies, placed an ad in the Sept. 7, 2011 Star-Ledger stating that "Irene was the second-largest storm to hit North America in terms of power outages – and the first hurricane to make landfall in New Jersey since 1904."

Irene’s devastation was widespread: fatalities, millions without power throughout the state and rebuilding that would take months. We questioned some of the data cited by a meteorologist in the story, but determined that the overall point of the claim -- the magnitude of Irene’s wrath -- was solid.

Disasters declared

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor on Sept. 26, 2011, arguing for House Republicans to break a deadlock and approve a bill funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In arguing for passage of the FEMA funding, Reid insisted the money was necessary, noting that President Obama had declared disasters in 48 of 50 states that year.

Our colleagues at PolitiFact National determined that Reid had misstated the number of states, but his overall point was clear. Reid’s claim earned a Mostly True.

Pay now, save later

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican from Florida, claimed in a June 2 press release that for every $1 spent mitigating hurricane and other storm damage, $4 would be saved in post-storm cleanups and rebuilding. One of three bills introduced by Rooney, called the National Disaster Mitigation Act, would provide a tax credit up to $5,000 for homeowners who prepare their homes to reduce the risk of damage from hurricanes and other disasters. That mitigation could include roof repairs or adding shutters, for example.

PolitiFact Florida determined that Rooney’s statistic of $1 spent equals $4 saved applied specifically to mitigation projects funded by the FEMA, not home upgrades paid for by individual homeowners. Our colleagues also determined that the 1:4 ratio is considered an industry standard by hurricane and mitigation experts in Florida. The claim was rated Mostly True.

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