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Standards must match the weather

Much of dealing with the weather has to do with hoping for the best – and preparing for the worst when necessary. Nova Scotia’s brush with Hurricane Matthew this past weekend is bringing about a lot of assessment after the fact.

This was one of those times where people are wishing the forecast had been delivered with a harsher outlook. They weren’t expecting as heavy a rain nor the force of the winds, particularly in some areas. And now, residents in a number of locales are measuring the damages in terms of “disaster.”

Premier Stephen McNeil in touring hard-hit residential places in Sydney spoke of the possibility of disaster relief.

People in Cape Breton Region are describing the aftermath as some of the worst rain-related damage they’ve seen in a long time. Beyond the typical power outages, the scene includes toppled trees, bridges taken out and extensive flooding to homes.

The question of insurance inevitably rises, but generally the answer there is that homeowners’ policies don’t include damage caused by overland water.

That has left the province communicating with the federal government in hopes that Ottawa might respond with disaster relief funding. If it’s available, that might get the harder-hit owners through this one. But we have to keep in mind, what about next time?

Although discussion arises in the midst of extreme weather events about insurance coverage clauses, and what’s available – and available at what price – the industry has made it plain that we need tougher standards for housing. That would include making structures better able to handle strong winds, locations for development that are less prone to flooding from natural water sources and the placement of larger trees.

There’s talk, yes, but we’re not there yet.

It’s not unheard of to tour seaside areas or places near major streams and see homes of relatively recent construction that would be vulnerable if water levels were to rise dramatically.

The word is from climatologists – and we hear this time after time – that we can expect an increase in extreme weather.

Any possible changes in the insurance coverage available, of course, would mean rate increases and homeowners generally bearing greater costs with more destructive events. At the same time, when governments are called upon for relief funding, that also comes at significant cost to the public.

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