My friend Samantha Montano, a PhD student in disasterology and the person who helped create the Humanist Disaster Recovery Teams for the Foundation Beyond Belief, has a column at Vox about the role of global warming in extreme weather events like the flooding in Louisiana.
On Friday, meteorologists began sounding the alarm that a low-pressure weather system would deliver about 24 inches of water to communities on the Louisiana coast. Had it been a hurricane, more advance warning would have been possible to give people more time to evacuate. But this storm was harder to predict — and so it took the region largely by surprise.
The extensive flooding that ensued has left 11 dead and 40,000 homes damaged across 20 parishes in the state. Tens of thousands of people were stranded as the water rose, requiring the National Guard, Coast Guard, local first responders, and groups of citizens including the “Cajun Navy” to do water rescues over the weekend. More than 10,000 people were moved to shelters.
Though smaller than the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, this latest flood reminds us of what a changing climate has in store for us: Places that have flooded before will flood again, and places that haven’t in the past will do so for the first time.These disasters are the new normal — several other states are currently recovering from disasters of their own. What has become painfully clear is that the “emergency management system” in the United States does not have the capacity to address all the needs. The systems we have in place to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from these events do not have the ability to deal with so many disasters at once. We can do better…
At this rate, communities across the country will be in a perpetual state of response and recovery. We need to find way to lessen the impact of these types of disasters and better prepare. Local governments need to lead the conversation on community-wide mitigation projects like flood control systems and zoning laws. Individuals and households need to buy hazard insurance. Communities must create disaster plans in advance and tell the local community about their hazard risks and what to do about them.
We need to find ways to fund and maintain public interest for mitigation and preparedness to be successful. This all needs to happen while simultaneously creating a system that allows communities to recover quickly and fully.
She goes into a lot of detail about the ways our emergency management system is outdated, unprepared and stretched to the limits and offers a way forward. You should read the whole thing.