A Year After Sandy, Living Dangerously by the Sea

Interesting article, and my favorite quote from it contains something I think about a lot: if we’re going to live in harm’s way (and a lot of us will continue to do so), then we need to figure out how to build resilient communities. Here’s the quote:

“So if we’re going to keep living in harm’s way, we have to do our best to reduce the harm. That means prioritizing resilience, which has replaced adaptation as the term of choice for city planners. Resilience means understanding that disasters like storms and floods will happen — there’s no adapting them away — and what we need to do is build homes, communities, cities and countries that can take the punch of a Sandy without hitting the canvas for the count. It means being creative about the challenges we’ll face, knowing that they’ll evolve in the future. ‘Cities have a tendency to prepare for the thing they got hit by in the past,’ says Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans. ‘We have to be ready for anything that might come our way, and be flexible about what we’ll need to respond.’”

Science & Space

Earlier this month I stood outside the Babbio Center at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., looking out over the Hudson River toward Manhattan. When Hurricane Sandy struck the New York area on Oct. 29 of last year, the storm pushed the river over its banks, and the narrow streets of the New Jersey city filled with water like a bathtub. Standing next to me that day were Alan Blumberg and Tom Herrington, ocean engineers at Stevens. Before Sandy hit, Blumberg and Herrington had predicted the massive extent of the flooding that would result from the storm and the damage that would be done to Hoboken, which at its border along the Hudson sits just 4 or 5 ft. above the river — even less at high tide, which happens to be when Sandy made landfall.

Today the scientists and their colleagues at Stevens are trying to improve…

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Updating Our Readers…

Been wondering where we are?

Sorry that we haven’t posted for a little while. Last week I was locked away in an archive looking at old property documents while also having to tend to other professional matters. But DPP hasn’t been far from my thoughts or from Randy’s and Logan’s. We have stories coming soon, including a discussion of regulatory takings, the second part of Logan’s series on redevelopment takings, and Randy is working on a story about New Orleans and its struggles to recover from Katrina. Next week, I will be blogging from Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado. So, there’s a lot in the pipeline! If you haven’t already, sign to follow us by clicking on the follow button to the left. You’ll receive an email when we post those stories!

Speaking of Colorado…

As I’ve prepped for my trip, I came across a couple of really interesting stories I wanted to share with you:

On October 18th US News posted a story titled “Colorado Floods: A Month Later, Mountain Towns ‘Spooky’ and Deserted.” Some of the towns in the mountains have been so badly damaged that they are now deserted. And they feel like ghost towns. The article describes the bigger population areas (Boulder, Fort Collins, etc.) as “bustling” again; but those smaller places, primarily foothill villages, have been destroyed. These towns are delicately balanced economically speaking, relying heavily upon tourism for their stability. With cabins, stores and roads all damaged, it will be very difficult for them to come back.

Funding for rebuilding and recovery remains an issue in Colorado. The Denver Post reported today that Jerre Stead, who was appointed by Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper in September as the chief recovery officer, has pointed out that making certain victims get the money and other resources they need to recover remains a challenge. Many have applied for funds, but they may not be getting the amount they requested or the amount they need and other resources necessary for them to get on their feet again. Both the United Way and Red Cross have raised money, there have been other mechanisms to used to get small businesses back on their feet. There is a website set up to help flood victims find aid (ColoradoUnited.com). I often wonder how helpful websites are when people are homeless, but it is a good storing house of information. As often happens in disaster contexts, assessment of the damage is slow and made difficult when we leave their homes, towns or communities to find shelter elsewhere. In addition, some of Colorado’s farms and ranches remain in limbo as assessment made concerning the damage done to them is difficult or slow in getting done. According to the story, 1200 farms and some 32,000 acres of cropland have been impacted by the floods. Add that to the villages and tourist areas that have sustained great damage such as the ones described in the US News story above, and you can just begin to understand how complicated recovery is.

In case you didn’t missed these…

Earlier this year, Oklahoma was hit by some nasty tornadoes. But did you know that Oklahoma has a history of severe flooding as well as earthquakes? Yes… Earthquakes. Earlier this week, Popular Science posted a story about the more than 200 earthquakes in Oklahoma since 2009. According to the story, the US Geological Survey has released a report that says that human activities are contributing to the “earthquake swarm” in central Oklahoma. At the very least, it’s a very interesting story and worthy of some conversation. Fracking, among other activities, are cited as contributing factors in the USGS study found here. The idea that human activities may contribute to earthquakes is hardly new, but I had not seen data on the Oklahoma “swarm” before this. If anyone has any insights about all of this, please feel free to email me at dpphatcher@gmail.com — I’d love to learn more.

In the meantime, The Weather Channel has also posted a story about tornadoes in October and November. The hurricanes in the Atlantic, apparently, spawn high numbers of tornadoes. So while spring is considered the season with the most tornadoes, autumn is the “second tornado season.” Having grown up mostly in Minnesota, I am used to thinking about tornadoes in the spring and summer, but it wasn’t until I moved to southern Illinois that I had to get my mind around thunderstorms and tornadoes in the autumn. Apparently, there’s nothing terribly unusual about it — it just depends, like everything else, on where you live.

While I was away in Kansas City last week, southern Illinois and parts of the bootheel in Missouri had, very briefly, a forecast that suggested an ice storm might happen — in the third week of October! Just the thought was, please excuse the pun, chilling. It made me all the more sympathetic for those who were hit by the snowstorm, Atlas, up north a few weeks ago. So, I want to direct your attention, as well, to the Weather Channel’s coverage of Atlas, which hit South Dakota so hard. The photos are absolutely remarkable.