Disasters

Disastrous Inequality

Puerto Rico was hit much harder than Houston. But help was much slower coming.

Texas and Puerto Rico both got hit very hard last year by major hurricanes. But the federal government moved a lot more quickly to get help to Texas. In a new paper, I document the difference and explore the reasons. Although I won’t go into all the details here, this is a situation people need […]

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The Hurricane Outlook

The journalists are sure about the 2018 hurricane season. The scientists? Not so much.

I’m actually in Puerto Rico today for a conference on the situation here after Hurricane Maria. Since hurricanes are on my mind, I wondered what the forecast for this year looks like. As it turns out, the headlines give significantly different takes on what to expect. Here is a sample of news stories, all issued […]

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Hurricane Recovery in Texas

It’s been eight months. What’s happened since the storm?

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the U.S. on August 25, 2017. That probably seems like ancient history to many Americans who live outside the area. The storm has certainly dropped out of the national media. It’s not easy to find information about how storm recovery is proceeding. But here’s where I could find. Let’s start […]

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The impacts of the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene will produce profound economic, social, and political effects on human societies

In my prior post, I explained how humans are increasingly altering or influencing natural systems at a planetary level, and not just through climate change.  Now I want to explain a little about the impacts of those changes on human societies, and the implications of those impacts for how we will respond as societies to […]

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Rick Perry, PJM, and the Polar Vortex

Michael Wara posted previously about Rick Perry’s proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear. In its current incarnation, the proposal is aimed purely at ISOs and RTOs that operate capacity markets, which largely means a single entity, PJM. Why the focus on PJM? Oh, I guess I had better explain. OK, to start with, what did […]

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Disaster Resilience: Inching Forward, Sliding Back

We’re slowing improving disaster resilience. But there have been some notable setbacks.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.  The same is true for disasters. We are slowly getting better at mitigating disaster risks.  These improvements don’t generally take the form of dramatic breakthroughs.  Rather they involve incremental progress on a number of fronts. For instance, homes that were constructed […]

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Disaster Insurance

States (for wind) and the Feds (for water) provide insurance for hurricane victims. Here’s how.

Rebuilding takes money.  That makes insurance a crucial part of the equation. Insured losses are expected to be in the $70 billion range for Harvey and Irma combined.  This includes commercial insurance, but the payments for home owners will also be hefty. Those costs are generally covered by government-supported insurance markets. I’ve posted previously about […]

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The Dark Art of Estimating Flood Risks

The 100-year flood and the 500-year flood are both very rough estimates.

My title is a little unfair.  So far as I can tell, the people who are trying to figure out the 100-year or 500-year floods in various places are hard-working professionals, applying their expertise to a difficult problem.  But there are a lot of uncertainties that get concealed behind the final numbers.  The consequence is […]

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How Disaster Response Works

It’s a complex process involving many federal agencies and state government.

When people think of FEMA, they envision rescuers finding victims and taking them to safety. FEMA does provide emergency assistance, temporary housing and other services. But its main  job is to coordinate the response of many parts of the federal government.  And the federal government’s role itself is mostly supportive, with the main job of […]

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Houston’s Shockingly Poor Flood Control System

Houston failed to learn a key lesson from Katrina about the need to prepare for catastrophic flooding.

The torrential rain in Houston would have caused bad flooding no matter what.  There’s no question about that.  But it’s also true that Houston’s flood control efforts have been badly managed. Houston failed to learn a key lesson from Katrina: the most important disaster response is done years in advance through risk mitigation.  Not only […]

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