Last week, Atlantic City made national news. The “woke” Democrat media and politicians were shocked and surprised that Atlantic City leaders have no interest in taking state government money “to buy and demolish homes in flood prone areas”.
Since it was built in 1854, almost all of Atlantic City has been a “flood prone area”. The city was built in the first place to bring visitors from Philadelphia as close to the beach, ocean, and back bays as possible. Much or all of Atlantic City was flooded by the ocean or back bays during hurricanes or bad “Nor’easter” storms in 1938, 1944, 1962, 1991, and 2012. There was no FEMA or federal flood insurance until the 1991 “Halloween” or “Perfect Storm”. Until “Superstorm” Sandy in 2012, owners of flooded homes and businesses quickly rebuilt, cleaned up and fixed up.
Above Image: Republican NJ Governor Chris Christie profusely praised Democratic President Obama days before the close election of 2012. In return, Obama billions of dollars for “storm relief”, much of which had nothing to do with repairing storm damage.
That was not possible after “Superstorm” Sandy in 2012. Republican Governor Chris Christie ordered State Police to block residents and business owners from going back to their properties for nearly a week. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) then warned that owners of flooded properties could lose government benefits if they cleaned up or fixed up before federal inspectors got there. This delay caused much additional and unnecessary damage from mold and standing water.
“Superstorm” Sandy was not an intense storm, and was not even a hurricane when it reached New Jersey. However, it caused massive flooding because it lingered offshore for days, and pushed water into the back bays with strong easterly winds. Then the eye of the storm suddenly came ashore between Atlantic City and Ocean City, New Jersey. This caused high winds to suddenly blow in the opposite direction and flood the back bays during two full moon high tides.
Above Image: View of the iconic Margate Elephant from the beach. There was very little flood damage to the ocean side of Margate during “Superstorm” Sandy in 2012. Most flooding came from the back bays. Houses on the ocean side were protected by higher ground, wide beaches, and a wooden seawall built after a hurricane in 1944. Margate residents repeatedly voted against building artificial sand dunes here. However, Governor Christie and federal government officials under President Obama forced Margate to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build them anyway.
After the storm, Governor Christie also ordered many shore towns to build expensive, ugly, and inconvenient artificial sand dunes in front of their most valuable beachfront properties, even though almost all flooding came from the back bays and not the ocean.
Is Atlantic City in danger of destruction by “rising seas” and “climate change”? So far, real estate markets don’t think so. Waterfront homes, vacant lots and old “teardown” houses along the beach and back bays are still selling at record high prices.
Because properties by the water are so valuable, they pay far higher real estate taxes than most other properties. It would be foolish for city officials to destroy those taxpaying properties and force everyone else it town to pay higher prices.
If rising seas are a problem, why is it a government problem? If floods become too common or too destructive, won’t people too close to the water simply sell their properties then and move elsewhere? Something very similar happened in Tombstone, Arizona nearly 150 years ago.
Above Image: The restored Crystal Palace Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona. During the 1880’s. both Atlantic City, New Jersey and Tombstone, Arizona became rich, thriving towns of roughly 14,000 residents almost overnight. Building built in both towns during this year had similar designs and used similar materials and fixtures.
Until 1886, Tombstone, Arizona was a rich, thriving town of 14,000 people in the middle of an Arizona desert. Hundreds of men worked in nearby silver mines that produced roughly ten million dollars worth of silver each year. Thousands of others worked to entertain them. There were 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, and numerous dance halls and brothels including the famous Schieffelin Hall opera house and Bird Cage Theatre. There were also four churches, an ice house, a school, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor. However, in 1886, the silver mines flooded and shut down. It was too expensive to pump out the water. Within a year, all but 646 people left, and the town was abandoned. Tombstone remained empty until some eighty years later when several shops, restaurants, and museums opened as Old West tourist destinations.
The moral of this story is that in a free country, people will move to where they want to live and work. If floods in Atlantic City become too severe or too frequent, people will move to better places as they did in Tucson, Arizona when the mines closed. So far, that is not happening. The most valuable properties in town are those closest to the ocean and back bays. There is nothing for the government to do.
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