Welcome to the September issue of Hagerty Consulting, Inc.’s Disaster Discourse Monthly. As response continues and recovery begins, we are dedicating this issue exclusively to coverage of Hurricane Florence and this year’s hurricane season. As always, if this is one more email than you’d like to receive, please unsubscribe here. We hope you enjoy this issue and any of our past issues, and we’ll see you in October!
Leading up to the Storm
Hurricane Florence, which approached the North Carolina coast as a Category 4 before winding down to a Category 1, was predicted to have been one of the worst storms in United States (US) history. Many have compared Florence to Hurricane Harvey, and all eyes are on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its Administrator Brock Long as they employ the lessons learned from the 2017 Hurricane Season to assist response and recovery efforts in the affected regions.
The Atmosphere around Florence
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale uses wind speed to define hurricane categories, which, after the devastating rainfall from Hurricane Harvey and the current flooding in North Carolina, have many questioning the scale’s effectiveness and calling for a more comprehensive categorization of hurricanes. Until a revised scale is actualized, many organizations are working to conceptualize potential hazards in new ways. For example, the Weather Channel created an immersive 3-D animation to showcase the danger of storm surge in North Carolina; hopefully, this technology can be used to further understanding around storm events and help people make informed decisions before a storm hits.
In the Eye of the Storm
As Hurricane Florence hit, Waffle Houses across the affected region were being monitored. You heard that right – one way to monitor the impact of a storm is to see what menu the local Waffle House is serving. More than one million people in the affected communities lost power, and winds hit 85 miles per hour as the storm made landfall. The US Coast Guard and groups like Team Rubicon and the Cajun Navy Relief and Rescue worked tirelessly to rescue people – and animals – from flooding. As with any storm, misinformation also swirled on social media platforms; this article from Wired is a good reminder of the proper etiquette to keep oneself and others safe from fake news during a disaster.
While Hurricane Florence was downgraded, its wake was still devastating. According to reports on September 19th, 10,000 North Carolina residents are currently in shelters and over 300,000 have no power. That same day it was reported that, five days after Florence made landfall, more than a thousand roads had been closed in North Carolina, and the death toll across North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina was at 37. Due to flooding, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper had asked residents “not [to] try to return home.” Meanwhile, concerns over the environmental health risks from North Carolina’s flooded livestock farms loom, and the state’s coastline seems to have eroded significantly from the storm surge.
Recovering from the Storm
Communities are now pivoting from response to recovery. After surveying Wilmington’s damage, Governor Roy Cooper said North Carolina has “a long road ahead.” Recovery operations have been especially slow due to high tides and continued flooding. North Carolina farmers whose crops were damaged during the storm and from the aftermath’s flooding have an especially difficult path toward recovery; Scott Marlow, Senior Policy Specialist for the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, advises them to “document” and try to be at their “most-organized best” in order to receive government funding. One bright light following the devastation of Florence was the arrival of Chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen to Wilmington, North Carolina, where the organization aimed to provide 150,000 meals to those affected by Florence. Last year, during Hurricane Maria, World Central Kitchen and Chef Andres “served millions of meals.” With yet another large disaster recovery underway, a recent report from Rice University and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi that questions the efficacy of the current “top-down funding approach” to disaster recovery has become increasingly relevant; it emphasizes the importance of mitigation, which can help to “speed recovery,” according to Kyle Shelton, the report’s author.