As Hurricane Michael moves further inland, bringing torrential rains and high winds with it, those that were most vulnerable before the storm, are going to need the most assistance in its aftermath. This is a mantra that is relevant to hurricanes and other disasters. This is also well described in research focusing on disproportional impact and recovery of vulnerable populations. But to really have that principle influence and improve disaster planning and response, we need a richer understanding of these vulnerabilities and better tools to incorporate them into the planning process.
[Read the full op-ed posted on The Hill October 11, 2018]
As of September 14, 2018 Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. Despite this “low” rating, it is still expected to cause significant disruption and destruction due to heavy rainfall and winds. At 400 miles wide and with hurricane-force winds spanning across 160 miles, parts of the Carolinas could see as many as 20, 30, or even 40 inches of rainfall over the next 7 days. On top of the rain, a massive storm surge can be expected, rising as high as 13 feet and reaching up to 2 miles inland. Roughly 11 million Americans live in areas currently under storm watches and warnings.
Though Florence made landfall with top winds of 90 mph and thus does not qualify as a “major” hurricane (the threshold is 111 mph), it is still extremely dangerous. As of Friday morning, for example, 150 people were rescued in New Bern, North Carolina, with another 150 waiting to be rescued after more than 10 feet of storm surge flooded the city. The storm is predicted to incur between $10-60 billion in economic damages. By Friday morning, there were already 510,000 power outages, mostly in North Carolina. Duke Energy anticipates between 1-3 million homes and businesses losing power.
The impact of Hurricane Florence will be felt for a long time. Well beyond the dangerous initial impact of this enormous storm, the high impact region will be facing years of disruption, a difficult recovery and the need for considerable investment to return to a new state of normalcy for many communities and families.
For good reason, the high drama of a catastrophic event like Hurricane Florence dominates media and public attention. Non-stop coverage is more than warranted and the immediate needs are clear: Ensuring safety for people who may be directly in harm’s way through mandatory evacuation and shelter accessibility, prepositioning of supplies and materials that will be needed in shelters and maximizing search and rescue operations will all be top of mind.
But what else? Here are some of the key issues that should be remembered by citizens:
- Take or protect important papers and memorabilia that may be valuable and irreplaceable;
- Make sure you have an adequate supply of essential medications, as well as personal medical records, names of health care providers and so on;
- Detailed medical records (doctors’ contacts, medications, relevant protocols) should be with you.
- Provisions for sustaining electricity-dependent medical equipment should be planned for;
- Provisions for pets, including vaccination records;
- Plans for neighbors and relatives who may need extra assistance;
- Special supplies for babies and toddlers; and,
- Toys, books, and activities for children are important.
For media, elected officials and policymakers, there are a number of issues that should be understood and tracked. See our latest op-ed in The Hill that describes why:
- It’s not just the coast that needs to be concerned.
- The most vulnerable before the storm will be the most vulnerable after.
- Federal resources are already stretched thin.
- Indirect deaths may greatly outnumber direct deaths.
- Recovery will outlast our attention.
Read the full piece here.
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