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Resilience in Planning: A Review of Comprehensive Plans in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina

March 30, 2015 Comments off

Resilience in Planning: A Review of Comprehensive Plans in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

This paper analyzes and compares the decisions communities made in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to determine to what extent post-Katrina comprehensive plans promote resilience based on built environment factors that have been shown to improve social networking, physical safety, and community building. Levels of recovery are also examined, measured by the current numbers of occupied housing units in each community compared with pre-Katrina numbers.

After Katrina, multiple planning documents were produced by a variety of organizations. Mississippi state statute requires each municipality to have a long-range comprehensive plan adopted by the local governing body. Plans establish goals over a 20- to 25-year period of development and are required to address residential, commercial, and industrial development; parks, open space, and recreation; street and road improvements; and public schools and community facilities. To capture the most significant interests and values, the overarching goals and vision statements of post-Katrina plans were compared and analyzed.

Plans from four Mississippi communities affected by Hurricane Katrina—Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, and Waveland—indicate that communities in the region understand many of the present strengths and weaknesses with respect to disaster resilience and have outlined a strategy to mitigate damage, reduce vulnerability, and create support networks to speed up recovery for a future disaster on the scale of Katrina. Like any plan, how and to what extent these ideals are implemented is a concern. During interviews in these communities, recurring concerns were public participation and, at the least, attention to the needs of residents in the planning process.

Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events

March 15, 2015 Comments off

Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events (PDF)
Source: Federal Highway Administration

The US transportation system is vulnerable to coastal extreme event storms today and this vulnerability will increase with climate change. Hurricane Sandy caused over $10 billion in damage to coastal roads, rails, tunnels, and other transportation facilities in New York and New Jersey (Blake et al. 2013, NOAA 2013). Hurricanes Ivan (2004), Katrina (2005), Ike (2008), and other storms have also caused billions in damage to coastal roads and bridges throughout the Gulf Coast. Portions of California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, have been relocated away from the ocean in response to bluff erosion threatening the highway. Costs of lost business when critical transportation services are interrupted after coastal storms have also been significant.

This vulnerability will increase as sea levels rise. Many projections of future sea levels suggest accelerated rise rates resulting from global climate change. Higher sea levels will combine with future extreme events to increase the vulnerability of coastal highways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure. Thus, damage from coastal hazards such as hurricanes, high waves, tsunamis, and extreme tides will increase in cost, frequency, and magnitude. It is estimated that over 60,000 roadway miles in the US are exposed to coastal storm surge (FHWA 2008). The degree to which that exposure, and resulting vulnerability, will increase as a result of climate change is currently unknown.

The transportation authorization act, MAP-21 – the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, lists “protection against extreme events” as an eligible project purpose for federal funding of construction, replacement, rehabilitation, or preservation of bridges (P.L. 112-141: Section 119 (d) (2) (B)). The FHWA guidance memo entitled “Eligibility of Activities to Adapt to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events under the Federal-Aid and Federal Lands Highway Program” (FHWA 2012a), provides more specific information on the use of federal highway program funds in the planning, design and construction of highways to adapt to extreme events considering climate change. This memo stressed that “consideration of extreme events, their impacts on highways and transportation systems, and development of adaptation strategies should be grounded in the best available scientific approaches.” Adaptation activities need to be based on the current understanding of weather patterns affecting the location of a project or region, as well as projected changes in climate.

Thus, there is a need for technical guidance in assessing the exposure and vulnerability of highway infrastructure in the coastal environment that will be impacted by extreme events including considerations of the effects of climate change. This publication is intended to be technical guidance grounded in the “best available scientific approaches” to vulnerability and risk assessment and climate change.

How do property and casualty insurers manage risk? The role of reinsurance

March 11, 2015 Comments off

How do property and casualty insurers manage risk? The role of reinsurance (PDF)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

By tempering financial losses, the insurance industry lends resilience to the economy and helps homeowners and businesses recover from natural disasters and other catastrophes. In order to do this, however, the insurance industry must itself be resilient.

Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer

March 11, 2015 Comments off

Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer
Source: World Resources Institute

The Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer is a web-based interactive platform which measures river flood impacts by urban damage, affected GDP, and affected population at the country, state, and river basin scale across the globe. It aims to raise the awareness about flood risks and climate change impacts by providing open access to global flood risk data free of charge.

The Analyzer enables users to estimate current flood risk for a specific geographic unit, taking into account existing local flood protection levels. It also allows users to project future flood risk with three climate and socio-economic change scenarios. These estimates can help decision makers quantify and monetize flood damage in cost-benefit analyses when evaluating and financing risk mitigation and climate adaptation projects.

Additionally, the analyzer identifies the future change in flood risk driven specifically by climate change and socio-economic development, which helps decision makers identify the drivers of future change and prioritize development focuses accordingly for strategic planning.

See also: World’s 15 Countries with the Most People Exposed to River Floods

CRS — Farm Safety Net Programs: Background and Issues (February 6, 2015)

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Farm Safety Net Programs: Background and Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) operates several programs that supplement the income of farmers and ranchers in times of low farm prices and natural disasters. Federal crop insurance, farm programs, and disaster assistance are collectively called the farm safety net.

CRS — U.S. Tsunami Program: A Brief Overview (February 20, 2015)

March 5, 2015 Comments off

U.S. Tsunami Program: A Brief Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Weather Service (NWS) manages two tsunami warning centers that monitor, detect, and issue warnings for tsunamis. The NWS operates the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) at Ewa Beach, Hawaii, and the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) at Palmer, Alaska.

The tsunami warning centers monitor and evaluate data from seismic networks and determine if a tsunami is likely based on the location, magnitude, and depth of an earthquake. The centers monitor coastal water-level data, typically with tide-level gauges, and data from NOAA’s network of Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) detection buoys to confirm that a tsunami has been generated or to cancel any warnings if no tsunami is detected. As of January 20, 2015, 12 of the United States’ 39 DART buoys were not operational. According to NOAA, the inoperable stations would not prevent the issuance of tsunami warnings, which are primarily a function of seismic data from an earthquake or landslide, combined with location information about the event. However, lacking these stations could mean the warnings encompass a larger area than would be the case if all stations were operating, and it could lengthen the time a warning remains in effect.

15 Minutes to Leave: Denial of the Right to Adequate Housing in Post-Quake Haiti

March 2, 2015 Comments off

15 Minutes to Leave: Denial of the Right to Adequate Housing in Post-Quake Haiti
Source: Amnesty International

Five years on from a devastating earthquake in Haiti, tens of thousands of people remain homeless as government policy failures, forced evictions and short-term solutions have failed many who lost everything in the disaster.

The new report, “15 Minutes to Leave” – Denial of the Right to Adequate Housing in Post-Quake Haiti, documents worrying cases of people being forcibly evicted from temporary, make-shift camps. The report also explores how the influx of development aid that came in the wake of the disaster failed to be transformed into long-term, secure housing solutions.

According to the latest data, 123 camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) remain open in Haiti, housing 85,432 people. While the number of those in camps has reduced significantly since 2010, more than 22,000 households are still without adequate housing.

Conditions in many IDP camps are dire. A third of all those living in camps do not have access to a latrine. On average 82 people share one toilet.

Forced evictions from camps are a serious and ongoing problem. More than 60,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their shelters in makeshift camps since 2010. The vast majority were not offered any alternative locations where they could resettle, pushing them again into poverty and insecurity.

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