We’re Hitting the Limits of Hurricane Preparedness

Resilience And The Built Environment

Record setting heat, catastrophic wildfires, heavy downpours, longer droughts, and more frequent hurricanes: the headlines so far this year have provided relentless coverage of devastating weather throughout the United States.

Initially there was some confusion about what was meant by “resilience.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as of mid-July 2021 a forty-year trend of increasingly destructive weather has continued, with eight natural disasters to date each causing losses exceeding $1 billion. For comparison, the annual average number of these events during the most recent five years has been just over 16. This year is on track to continue and possibly exceed that record of destruction…READ ON

We’re Hitting the Limits of Hurricane Preparedness

Seventy-four hours.

That’s roughly how much time separated the moment that Tropical Depression Nine formed in the Caribbean from the moment that the storm, transformed into a ruthless Category 4 hurricane named Ida, made landfall at Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Even less time—perhaps 60 hours—separated the storm’s promotion to hurricane strength and the first arrival of tropical-storm winds in Louisiana, the latter of which marks the moment that any official evacuation must be nearly complete. That’s when drivers need to start getting off the roads, and when local services are shut down until the storm passes.

Image credit: Brandon Bell / Getty

It wasn’t enough time. While Ida was a well-predicted storm, 60 hours of warning was too short for New Orleans officials to issue a mandatory evacuation order in the days before it landed. The limits of the city’s highways mean that the city must issue an evacuation order at least 72 hours before tropical-storm winds hit land. Officials said last year that the coronavirus pandemic means they may need 82 hours of warning, to account for the increased difficulty of moving and sheltering people…READ ON

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