Finally.

Bipartisan agreement.

Arizona’s a disaster.

The entire Arizona Congressional delegation — including Paul Gosar and Tom O’Halleran — signed a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Arizona senators Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly also signed the Sept. 7 letter seeking a federal disaster declaration due to the monsoon flooding in Apache, Coconino and Navajo counties.

Between July 22 and July 24, four inches of rain fell on assorted burn scars, causing widespread flooding.

“The intensity of this monsoon season and anticipated future storms in the region have severely affected communities, with streets where children once played transformed into storm channels by concrete barriers and sandbags. Without federal support, these communities will be unable to recover,” said the letter from the Arizona representatives.

Monsoon storms actually caused half a dozen deaths in Southern Arizona, as well as heavy damage in Flagstaff, Miami, Globe, Tucson and Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has already declared a disaster, but the feds have all the money. Earlier, a series of wildfires burned some 600,000 acres, consumed hundreds of structures and forced evacuations throughout the state — including Pine.

However, Arizona will have to get in line.

Hurricanes caused widespread flooding and many deaths all the way from New Orleans to New York this summer. Flooding from Hurricane Ida killed at least 43 people in four states. Meanwhile, millions of acres have burned in California and other western states.

Federal disaster relief spending has increased 10-fold in the 30 years and in 2019 hit $13 billion in a single year. FEMA accounts for about 44% of all federal disaster relief funding. Studies suggest climate change has supercharged normal natural disasters like wildfires, drought, hurricanes and flooding. From 1980 through 2014, the US each year faced an average of six disasters with price tags in excess of $1 billion But the last seven years have ranked as among the most expensive in FEMA history – averaging about $13 billion annually. The exception to that running average is 2005, when Hurricane Katrina spurred $88 billion in federal relief spending. This year could rival that disaster of all disasters.

The soaring cost of climate disasters in part reflects the impact of global warming — but also stems from a building boom in the most endangered areas. That includes flood prone areas, coastal areas and on the edge of overstocked, drought-stricken, poorly managed forests.

One already outdated study concluded FEMA has spent about $45 billion on disaster relief efforts since 2017, with the cost of climate-related disasters seeming to rise every year. One study found that Arizona has only spent 40% of the disaster relief money it has been allotted since 2017, among the lowest utilization rates of any state.

Texas has gotten the most disaster relief funding – about $7.6 billion. Arizona has only received $2.3 million and spent $720,000, according to one online report (https://www.valuepenguin.com/which-states-depend-on-fema-aid).

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

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