Hurricanes and Flooding


Carter Fournier, Staff Writer

Recovery begins in the Carolinas. Hurricane Florence which battered the coast in September of this year has left a path of destruction and cost the lives of over 35 people and caused over $17 billion in damages. The storm has caused extensive flooding throughout the Carolinas due to excessive rainfall. The all-time rain record in North Carolina of 24 inches which was set in 1999 was broken with parts of the state getting 33 inches of rain. As the storm ends the Carolinas are faced with a long recovery. Animal manure, Toxic waste and other harmful substances to humans have ended up in the flood water that has flooded homes and businesses. Toxic coal ash which is a byproduct of burning coal for electricity has likely escaped into a major river in North Carolina, contaminating the environment as well as harming fish, wildlife, and possible people. Coal Ash is known for causing cancer in people exposed to it containing chemicals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic this is according to the Physicians for social responsibility organization. Lead exposure can lead to kidney disease, high blood pressure, swelling of the brain and other issues. High levels of mercury can lead to poisoning, and arsenic exposure can lead to skin cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer and other serious health effects. In October Hurricane Michael left a path of devastation through the Florida panhandle causing widespread damage to homes and business. The storm was a Category-4 hurricane with wind speeds of 155 miles per hour when the storm made landfall. The storm is thought to be the strongest hurricane to hit the United States in over 50 yrs. This is also the first hurricane to hit the Florida panhandle in recent history. Because of Hurricane Michael 85 dogs that where is shelters in the path of the hurricane have been brought to the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley Minnesota for adoption according to Kare 11.

One issue that gets brought to attention after major hurricanes are housing, towns, and cities built in low lying areas of land that make them increasingly at risk of life threatening flooding. Charleston South Carolina, Miami Florida, and New Orleans Louisiana are some of the most at risk major cities to flooding and hurricanes in the United States today according to The Guardian. In 2005 the gulf coast of the United States where badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The city of New Orleans experienced horrific flooding after some of the historic levy’s protecting the city Broke allowing water to poor through the barriers. 80% of the City flooded in Katrina because much of the city is below sea level shaped like a bowl. When water pours through it stagnated instead of receding back preventing rescuers from being able to reach residents for long periods of time after the storm ended. New Orleans not only borders the Gulf of Mexico but the city is also surrounded by Lake Pontchartrain which also damaged New Orleans during Katrina. Charleston South Carolina is only a few feet above sea level making it an extremely at risk city for flooding during severe weather. Miami Florida also faces many challenges similar to those in New Orleans and Charleston. Miami-Dade County lied very close to sea level and its supply of fresh drinking water lies just below the city. During severe rain storms water doesn’t always have anywhere to go leading to flooding issues. The problem intensifies in the event of hurricanes. The storm surge in Florence reached as high as 11 ft in some spots. The storm surge of Hurricane Katrina reached 27.8 ft in Mississippi. The issues faced by these cities and other communities across the county will only get worse with sea level rise predicted by most of scientific community in the next 100 yrs. Many other cities face constant flooding risk due to habitat loss caused by urbanization. Houston Texas is one of the worst examples. During Hurricane Harvey a year ago the city of Houston experienced horrific flooding of which the city is still recovering from. Houston has seen explosive population growth over the past 25 years and is now the 4th largest city in the USA behind New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The increased urbanization may be a reason why flooding in the area may be getting worse. Concrete and cement doesn’t absorb water and as the Houston area has continued to grow land that once had trees, grass, swamps, and vegetation have been replaced by parking lots, homes, and businesses. The city is also flat making water drainage more difficult. New York City particularly the New York subway is also at risk of flooding. In 2012 hurricane sandy caused massive damage all along the north east United States. The underground subway system in New York city was badly flooded with sea water. The salt water corroded subway infrastructure necessary for the system to work including power cables, Track, concrete walls in the subway tunnels as well as signals. The 100 year old subway is still recovering. Even today the New York subway is still at risk. On numerous occasions this summer heavy rains in New York caused some subway stations to flood as water entered stations through the streets up above, poured through ceilings, and down stairways causing disruptions in service. The MTA has been trying to prepare the New York subway system for the next major flooding event but funding for the MTA and the subway has been a problem in recent years and the subway is showing its age after years of lackluster investment in keeping the system in good condition. Ultimately many parts of the United States are at an increasing risk of natural disaster and the question remains as to what we do to protect ourselves. We can’t move cities so we need to try and flood proof them but that requires lots of investment. Dams, and levees across the US are ageing and many are rated in poor condition. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers the US must expend more than $70 billion dollars to upgrade levies and that just solves the issue of flooding, much damage is caused by winds that can level buildings. Some new homes built today can survive extreme winds, resist fires, and even float on water so why aren’t we using them? Unfortunately a lot of that has to do with price. Stronger homes able to survive higher wind speeds, or are fire retardant are generally more expensive. Also safer designed houses don’t always look as nice. A domed shaped home may survive hurricanes or tornadoes but its not the look most people in this country prefer. We want our houses to look traditional with pitched roofs, shutters and big windows but those don’t stand up well to natural disasters.