WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- A top U.S. Senate Democrat said Thursday the federal government is not prepared to handle "catastrophic" weather events.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the majority whip, chaired a hearing of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee to examine the federal government's preparedness for the economic impact of weather events, which he said are growing in frequency and severity.
After hearing testimony from Franklin Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, Durbin said the federal government should follow the lead of the private sector and begin to focus strategically on the long-term budgetary impacts of severe weather events.
"We are not prepared," Durbin said in remarks provided by his office. "Our weather events are getting worse, catastrophic in fact. The private sector is prepared, but the federal government is ignoring the obvious. We need to do more to protect federal assets and respond to growing demands for disaster assistance on an increasing frequency."
After a record-setting 2010, "the U.S. has already experienced eight natural disasters this year -- the previous record was nine," Durbin said. "Chicago, in my home state of Illinois, has seen some of the worst weather in history."
In February, Chicago was shut down as 2 feet of snow and 20 mph winds hammered the city, killing 36 people and causing $3.9 billion in damages, Durbin said, and last weekend, the city was hit with the largest recorded single-day rainfall in history. "Combined with last night's severe rainstorms, July 2011 is now the wettest month in the 122 y
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