Hurricane Dorian Now a Category 4 Storm: What Do We Do We Need to Watch For?

As Hurricane Dorian continues to strengthen as it barrels toward Florida, the risks to people, communities and infrastructure will continue to grow. Federal, state and local agencies have had time to prepare, as have community and voluntary organizations. That said, enormous storms are unpredictable, as are their consequences. Hopefully individuals have heeded public advisories to leave or shelter in place. But in every instance, many may not listen to the warnings or have decided to “ride it out”. And for many people with limited resource before the storm, “getting prepared” may have been very difficult. Emergency supplies and preparations can be expensive or unaffordable. The ability to leave and find shelter may also be a difficult challenge for many families.  Presumably responder agencies will have taken such considerations seriously in the planning for this storm.

Published: 9:19 PM, 8/31/19
Irwin Redlener, MD

Here’s what we’ll be watching for:

  • Have economically and marginalized communities been provided assistance to insure that they are safe during and after the hurricane makes landfall?
  • Have sufficient shelters and evacuation plans been established?
  • In addition to officials, have community leaders been engaged to help reinforce the public messages about being prepared?
  • Florida has a vast and complex infrastructure, including power-producing facilities, some five of which are nuclear plants, many hazardous waste sites, hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and prisons. Protecting these facilities and ensuring everyone’s safety in congregate facilities—including hospitals—is of paramount importance.
  • Of particular importance is the resiliency of the electrical grid and communications systems. Hopefully, enhanced resiliency and backup of these systems are already in place.
  • Will cooperation and coordination among responder agencies at all levels of government function optimally?

Clearly, not everything will go perfectly. Every major disaster is unique, so unexpected situations will arise at unexpected times. That said if lessons from past storms are heeded if training and getting ready for the worst have made Florida as prepared as it can be, that may be the best we can hope for.

Puerto Rico May Have Dodged a Bullet, But A Major Hurricane Is Heading Toward Florida

As of right now, it appears that Puerto Rico may have dodged a major bullet as Hurricane Dorian’s track seems to be moving away from a direct hit. But the storm is intensifying, and now headed directly toward Florida. High speed winds and heavy rains with serious flooding are to be expected, the results of which are all too familiar for communities along the storm’s anticipated path of destruction. Calls to prepare and possibly evacuate high risk zones have been broadcast and, hopefully, citizens are heeding the warnings.

That said, the anticipation and impact of a major storm in Puerto Rico had additional layers of concern because the entire Island is still physically, economically, and psychologically recovering from Hurricane Maria, one the most devastating storms to hit the hemisphere in the last 100 years.

We recall that conditions in Puerto Rico were particularly vulnerable to powerful winds prior to Hurricane Maria because of chronic poverty, fragile infrastructure, and insufficient preparedness. This was compounded by a disorganized, insufficient federal response when the storm finally hit. All of this exacerbated a very dire situation following the hurricane’s landfall.

But inevitably, another Hurricane will hit Puerto Rico. After all, we are just now in the middle of the 2019 Hurricane season.

Here are the questions for right now:

  • Did the measures to improve readiness of the Island proposed after Hurricane Maria actually occur?
  • Is the Federal response apparatus ready to act decisively – and with sufficient resources?
  • Are people paying attention to the possibility of serious psychological consequences related to a new disaster so soon after the last disaster?
  • Are vulnerable populations, including children, seniors and people with chronic medical conditions as prepared as possible for the worst?

We can only hope that real lessons were learned and applied after Hurricane Maria. Not just for Puerto Rico, but for every region facing the possibility of major disasters. We are worried, but time will tell.

One thing we do know is that while the electrical grid destroyed by the last big storm was eventually rebuilt, the promised state of the art improvements that could have made the whole system far more resilient did not happen. That does not bode well for this fragile place.

NCDP in Puerto Rico: Somos Una Voz

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, international singer and recording artist Marc Anthony raised millions of dollars to help the storm-ravaged region respond and recover. He asked The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University to manage these funds. To this end, NCDP has funded more than 24 programs in Puerto Rico and the region since Hurricane Maria. Some of the programs provided initial humanitarian relief, others have focused on recovery, especially for the programs that serve the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Published: 7:49 PM, 8/28/19
Author: Irwin Redlener, MD

How Florida is Preparing for Hurricane Dorian

Dr, Irwin Redlener, joined MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin to discuss how well prepared Florida is for the incoming hurricane as well as how Tropical Storm Dorian tested Puerto Rico’s recovery since Hurricane Maria. Watch the segment below.

Published: 8:29 PM, 8/29/19

Vulnerable populations and infrastructure

Deputy Director, Jeff Schlegelmilch joins Marketplace to talk about how Dorian may impact those with the least resources.


Published 12:30 PM, 9/3/19