If this morning’s news is to be believed the danger is passed for the Oroville dam. But that is hardly the case. As the LA Times reported late last night (for once doing its job) with rain expected Wednesday, we could very easily be back in the same hole we were in very soon. Evacuees, all roughly 200,000 of them, remain displaced – nor is there any word when they might expect to be allowed to return home. This is at best a respite, the potential for further disaster remains very, very high. We have a day to breath deeply, but neither the effort nor the concern can slacken in the slightest.
Despite the coverage this is not a natural disaster – this is a man-made disaster. It could be a failure of design, it could be a maintenance failure, or it could be a management failure (it most likely is a combination of all three) but regardless all three of those are human activities. So with that in mind let’s look at some figures and estimates just to get our heads around how bad this actually is and how bad it could become.
First of all, what is all this costing right now? Well, I googled it and there simply are no figures currently available So let’s figure $150/day per evacuee. So, 188,000 evacuees times $150 per day and we come up with a figure of….$28M/day. We are on day three of the evacuation and already we’re in the hole almost $90M. I would not even know how to estimate the cost of repairs or the cost of the National Guard stand-up underway, or the cost in lost water, but I think it is fair to say that as things stand right now this is a billion dollar disaster. And it can only get worse.
The Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2015 man-made disaster losses totaled roughly $9B. So, as things stand today this particular man-made disaster would account for about 11% of the total losses in man-made disasters in 2015. That is approximately the same as the sixteen aviation disasters that year combined. And believe me when I tell you we are shooting low on the estimate scale here. Continue Reading