A Hurricane Response Lesson: Disrupt the Cycle of Futility

How do we disrupt the cycle of rebuilding things exactly as they were before—if slightly hardened—after increasingly powerful weather events?

2 minute read

September 8, 2017, 7:00 AM PDT

By Hazel Borys

"Those of us who spent extended time in coastal Mississippi and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are watching the weather and reading the news with a serious case of Groundhog Day. It’s rescue-recriminate-rebuild-repeat. Over and over again."

"I’m writing this as longer range impacts of Hurricane Harvey in Texas are just beginning to sink in and as another monster hurricane, Irma, has blown out of the Atlantic, into the Caribbean and is headed toward South Florida. We’re going to be grappling with competing narratives about disaster response and resilience for a while. Two suggestions:"

"First, those of us engaged in community and regional planning should keep in mind the core caution in last week’s post by my PlaceMakers partner, Hazel Borys:

'No amount of comprehensive planning or zoning reform can prepare a city for the sort of flood Houston is currently experiencing. An expected 50” of rain in a few days makes this an event that no place in the world is likely to sustain without massive personal and economic impacts.'

"My other suggestion: Let’s pick our battles. Beginning with recognizing the unhelpful aspects of the Groundhog experience and focusing on when and how to insert response strategies — including planning strategies — that show greater promise of making things at least a little better for those in the path of disaster."

Brown goes on with a lengthy analysis of city planning and hurricane response, ending with an encouragement to pick attainable steps toward resilience.

Thursday, September 7, 2017 in PlaceShakers

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Purple jacaranda trees in bloom in Los Angeles with tall white Art Deco buildings in background.

LA County Releases Draft Community Forest Management Plan

LA County's Chief Sustainability Office just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first Community Forest Management Plan for the county.

April 21 - Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office

Aerial view of downtown Seattle, Washington at dusk.

Seattle Downtown Plan Expands Permitted Uses

The Downtown Activation Plan shifts from Euclidean to form-based zoning to encourage more commercial development.

April 21 - Governing

Large water pipe with brown water pouring out into dirt ditch.

Southern Water Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Impacts

A water main breaks somewhere in the United States every two minutes, according to an estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

April 21 - The Conversation

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.