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

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