Monday, September 28, 2015

Dangerous Aspect to Building Boom in Hurricane Alley?

There is a fascinating study in 538 where author Matt Lanza asks what happens when the (amazing) ten year drought of major hurricanes to hit the United States ends.

But there’s a downside to those years of good weather. While the big storms have stayed away, the coastal population in the U.S. has continued to increase, and in a few cases it has been surging. When a major hurricane next strikes — and it will — it will very likely hit an area that is even more vulnerable to destruction, with a large group of new residents who might have no experience with extremes of high winds and water.
I moved to Houston in 2012, one of more than 800,000 people to do so since 2008,2 when Hurricane Ike hit the area. According to the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the population of that eight-county area is expected to grow more than 40 percent through 2040 to more than 10 million people. A list published by the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance earlier this year showed more than $100 billion in industrial projects proposed or underway in Louisiana. Although there are always risks because of fluctuations in oil and natural gas prices, the bottom line here is that the Gulf Coast is in the midst of a tremendous economic boom.
You might ask, "what's the big deal since emergency management people will tell us what to do?" I did an informal survey at an EM meeting to which I spoke in Ft. Worth and found there has been tremendous turnover in their ranks along the Gulf coast. We are losing "institutional memory" fast. It is possible that may lead to less than optimal decisions when a major hurricane looms. 

I used this photo of Warnings in a brand new home to illustrate that it, too, has stories of major hurricanes and what occurs when poor decisions are made.

While we have another month when a major hurricane might form and hit the U.S., there is nothing out there now. So, more likely than not, we will go into an eleventh straight hurricane season without a Cat 3 hurricane or stronger to come ashore in the USA. We may need to begin thinking about institutional memory before the loss becomes greater.

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