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Are American Cities Prepared for the Next Hurricane Harvey-Sized Storm?

Hurricane Harvey pummeled the Gulf Coast in 2017. It left behind over $125 billion in damage, killed 103 people, and displaced thousands. Today, nearly two years after Harvey, residents affected by the storm are still struggling to recover. One fact is unavoidable: Houston and nearby areas were not ready for Hurricane Harvey. With severe weather becoming more common throughout the nation and hurricane season here, one question must be asked. Are American cities ready for the next Harvey-sized storm?

New England Might Be Particularly Vulnerable Hurricane Destruction

In a report from the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), stresses that New England might be particularly ill-prepared for the destructive forces of a hurricane. The region has not had a direct hit from a hurricane in decades. The last major hurricane in the region occurred in 1991 when Hurricane Bob reached land over New Bedford, Connecticut. Though it was one of the costliest hurricanes to hit New England, the region saw a lull in hurricane-strength storms since. Though storms like Tropical Storm Irene and extreme snowfall have recently struck in the area, New England’s resilience to hurricane weather has remained largely untested for nearly three decades.

How All Cities Should Prepare for a Future Hurricane

Experts warn that a large hurricane is inevitable for New England. To prepare for the storm, the CLF recommends that massive changes must be made to infrastructure to prepare for the onslaught of water and wind brought by a hurricane.

Account for Climate While Building New Developments

Currently, New England has no laws or regulations requiring builders to account for extreme climate changes. This means that one strong storm in an area which does not usually have them could be devastating for its buildings. Cities in hurricane-prone areas must ensure that their buildings are prepared for severe weather, even if it is not common.

Building Codes Must Account for Hurricanes

At-risk areas should have building codes which will resist strong wind and heavy raining. The CLF suggests that building codes should be based on forward-looking scientific data. In other words, builders should go beyond current needs for the strength and weather resistance of their projects.

Zoning Code Reformation

Zoning codes determine how properties in specific areas can be used. Reforming zoning codes will allow cities and towns to determine how floodplains and other at-risk areas are used. Some experts have suggested that a lack of zoning codes in Houston’s floodplain caused much of the damage inflicted by Harvey. Had Houston had better zoning codes, officials would have had the ability to be more proactive before the storm.

Collect Important Data About the Cost of Extreme Weather

State and local agencies need information for the costs of extreme weather to better prepare for storms. Currently, there is not enough shared information to ensure that governments and citizens can adequately prepare for a large storm.

Fortify Existing Infrastructure

When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, dams had to be released because they could not handle the volume of water that they needed to. By updating infrastructure before a storm hits, we can ensure that communities are prepared to deal with storms, even if they are unexpectedly severe. Some of the damage caused by hurricanes last long after the storm passes. Without power, running water, and other utilities, communities struggle to survive while waiting for help to arrive. 

If you're struggling from damage caused by a hurricane, call Arnold & Itkin today. Our hurricane lawyers have recovered billions for clients, including those struggling to recover after a large storm. We are ready to talk when you call (888) 400-2101