USA: Study: New normal demands new approach

Coastal Review Online

By Trista Talton

Over the course of four days, Hurricane Florence’s record-breaking storm surge – 9 to 13 feet – and rainfall amounts that exceeded 35 inches left a wake of devastation that included dozens of deaths and an estimated $17 billion in destruction in the state.

Say hello to the poster child of what a newly released Zurich North America study calls the “new normal” of hurricanes, storms that researchers say require bucking current storm preparedness methods, taking a holistic approach to addressing risks and changing the terminology we use to communicate possible post-storm consequences.


“Every disaster provides ample learning,” said Michael Szönyi, flood resilience program lead for Zurich and one of the authors of the study, “Hurricane Florence: Building resilience for the new normal.”


On the socioeconomic side, Florence is a testament to an imbalance in storm recovery between the haves and have-nots.

Home and business owners with the assets and insurance are generally recovering better than those without, the study found.

Smaller communities with higher poverty rates in North Carolina’s coastal plain were still recovering from Hurricane Matthew when Florence struck the coast.

“This pattern of shortened recovery time and limited recovery support from various authorities exacerbates existing disparities in recovery,” the study states. “Higher income, better resourced and insured communities recover and rebuild faster, and more likely in time for the next storm, than their lower-income, resource scarce neighbors.”

That evidence, those stories – they help researchers identify the lessons learned from Hurricane Florence, use them to come up with recommendations to enhance flood resilience plans and share those recommendations to flood-risk prone communities around the world.


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