Storm Surge Flooding MISHELLA / Shutterstock.com

More than 6.5 million homes along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at risk of storm surge inundation, representing nearly $1.5 trillion in total potential reconstruction costs, according to Corelogic’s 2014 Storm Surge Report. Of that risk, more than $986 billion is concentrated within 15 major metropolitan areas.

While many homes and businesses most vulnerable to hurricane damage are in Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zones, these represent just a fraction of the structures that suffer a hurricane’s effects. Homeowners who live outside the FEMA flood zones typically do not carry flood insurance, given that there is no mandate to do so, and therefore may not be aware of the potential risk storm surge poses to their properties, Corelogic explains.

Uncertainty about the geographical and meteorological risks may lull many into a false sense of safety. “This year’s season is projected to be slightly below normal in hurricane activity, but the early arrival of Hurricane Arthur on July 3 is an important reminder that even a low-category hurricane or strong tropical storm can create powerful riptides, modest flooding and cause significant destruction of property,” said Dr. Thomas Jeffery, senior hazard scientist for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions.

Florida ranks number one for the highest number of homes at risk of storm surge damage, with nearly 2.5 million homes at various risk levels and $490 billion in total potential exposure to damage. Here’s how all 19 states studied stack up, based on number of homes at risk:

State Table (Ranked by Number of Homes at Risk)

At the local level, the New York metropolitan area (including northern New Jersey and Long Island) contains not only the highest number of homes at risk for potential storm surge damage (687,412), but also the highest total reconstruction value of homes exposed, at more than $251 billion. Take a look at the storm surge risk for the top 15 metro areas:

Storm Surge Risk for Top 15 Metro Areas

Corelogic also noted variation in the costs of rebuilding, which does not directly correlate to the amount of property at risk. The total reconstruction cost value of homes along the Atlantic coast is nearly $951 billion, for example, which is approximately double the value of at-risk properties in the Gulf region’s $545 billion.

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New York State Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin M. Lawsky and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced on Friday that they had filed for a temporary restraining order against the scheduled New York City launch of car-sharing service Lyft.

The car sharing service, known for its pink mustache decorations, has been operating since April in Buffalo and Rochester and had announced it would begin operations in Brooklyn and Queens, without getting a green light from the state.

“After Lyft rejected a reasonable request by the state to delay its launch, we filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in State Supreme Court this morning,” Lawsky said in a statement. “As a result of that action, the court has granted the state a temporary restraining order preventing Lyft from launching this evening in New York City. We will return to court on Monday, to address issues pertaining to Buffalo and Rochester in addition to New York City.”

Lawsky continued that the action was pursued “only after repeatedly offering to work with Lyft in order to ensure that its business practices complied with the law. Instead of collaborating with the state to help square innovation with statute and protect the public, as other technology companies have done as recently as this week, Lyft decided to move ahead and simply ignore state and local laws.”

He said the company’s arguments are a “disingenuous attempt to disguise old-fashioned law-breaking that jeopardizes public safety.”

Lyft is a car-sharing service that allows a car’s owner to turn an auto into a personal Zipcar and rent it by the hour or the day. The owner sets a price, and an intermediary service lists the car online, connects the owner with people who want to it and takes a portion of the fee.

At issue is insurance for car share vehicles. While car-sharing has been sanctioned in California, Oregon and Washington, some insurers are cautioning against it. In the states that have passed laws, legislation prevents insurers from canceling the policy of an owner who rents a vehicle. Car-share programs are also required to provide liability insurance approved by the state.

The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) recently pointed out that the rise of formal car-sharing programs throughout the United States has uncovered numerous insurance-related challenges, especially over the role of the car owner’s personal insurer and what exposure it may have.

John Murphy, NAMIC’s state affairs director for the Northeast said, “With a car-sharing program, an insurer lacks important information for gauging the risk. Car sharing is essentially a commercial enterprise, and the personal auto carrier should not be required to cover a risk that it never intended to cover.”

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Despite pleas to conserve water by Gov. Jerry Brown, Californians have paid little attention, prompting the state’s Water Resources Control Board to consider steep fines of up to $500 per day.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that higher fines would go to those who soak their lawns or use a hose without a nozzle, for example. If approved, this would be the first time the state has imposed such regulations.

Although Gov. Brown’s goal was to cut down on water usage by 20% through a combination of mandatory and voluntary restrictions, statewide water use has been reduced by only 5% so far.

“Having a dirty car and a brown lawn should be a badge of honor because it shows you care about your community,” Felicia Marcus, the board’s chairwoman, said in a teleconference. “We don’t know when it will rain again. It’s prudent to act as if it won’t.”

She also said that Californians should prepare for further restrictions: “What we’re proposing here as an opening salvo is the bare minimum. If it doesn’t rain later this fall, we certainly will consider more stringent measures.”

While most of California’s water is used to irrigate Central Valley farms, the new regulations would target urban water-users, where more than half of the water is used on landscaping, Marcus said.

A Stanford Alumni Magazine article pointed out that if climate change model projections play out, the Sierra’s spring snowpack, which supplies water for tens of millions of Californians, will have dwindled and some of the massive aquifers underlying Central Valley farms may dry up from continued overuse. Making things worse, California’s population, now 38 million, is projected at 46 million by 2035—and more than 50 million by 2050.

“In the past, we have developed a water system that does a great job of meeting our needs—the needs of growing cities, the needs of growing agricultural areas,” said Barton Thompson, a Stanford law professor. “But the approaches that we used were not sustainable, and they are at risk of much more extreme drought conditions than we have today.”

He noted that problems of California and the West cannot be ignored, as 2013 was the driest year since the 1800s Gold Rush era, when record-keeping began. Even if spring rains arrive, they would not be enough to make up the deficit. What’s more, the Sierra snowpack—comprising a third of the state’s water supply—ended its last season at just 18% of its average level.

Courtesy of Stanford University

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Improving reputation remains a chief objective in the financial services industry — and rightfully so, according to a new study that reports firms saw an average of 27% of revenue lost in the past two years due to reputation and customer service issues stemming from the financial crisis. The 2014 Makovsky Wall Street Reputation Study found that 81% of financial service firms are still feeling major negative impacts on stakeholder perception, and over three-quarters of financial services executives say industry risk is the same or worse than in 2007.

Public perception, riskier markets, and regulatory actions are the biggest impediments to industry recovery, executives told the communications firm. The biggest drags on reputation come from negative public perception (64%) and regulatory actions (55%), they said. A majority agreed that the top emerging reputation risks are high frequency trading and cyber data breach. Further, four out of ten executives say their company’s reputation has already suffered due to recent cyber data breaches.

Makovsky Wall Street Reputation Study

Makovsky Wall Street Reputation Study

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