Reduce Hurricane Damage by Rebuilding Smarter

Posted On September 21, 2017

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The financial cost of recent Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is still adding up, as coastal residents in Texas and Florida return home and assess damages.  Many of those who live in the southeastern United States and along the Gulf Coast face the unique threat of hurricanes every year.  However, as climate conditions worsen and hurricanes strengthen the threat becomes greater.  Rebuilding smarter now may lessen hurricane damage later.

For example, the Outer Banks, North Carolina is a popular vacation destination in the Southeast.  These barrier islands include open beaches and diving sites.  In 1999, city planners made the decision to move the Cape Hatteras Light Station inland as the shoreline started to sink.  At the time of its construction in 1870, the lighthouse stood 1,500 feet from the coastline, as of 2014 the coastline was only 120 feet away. 

Relocating structures inland poses unique problems with the owners of private property.  Due to the high cost of coastal and waterfront property, many homeowners are opposed to spending more to relocate or rebuild their homes in different locations.  Martin County Florida’s growth management director, Nicki van Vonno explained, “It’s a very delicate conversation in this country because of private property rights. You could certainly make the argument that these areas should not be developed. But it’s a very difficult argument to be made.”

Natural disasters like hurricanes can be catalysts for stricter building codes and zoning changes.  Following a series of storms in 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spent $3.2 million to raise homes in Sewall’s Point and reduce vulnerability to flooding.  The devastation of Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago also led to new building codes throughout the state of Florida.  In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, more changes are expected to preserve property and more importantly life.


Sources: USA Today