Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): hurricane

Five years after Hurricane Florence, EDF looks back at efforts to build resilience in North Carolina

In 2018, Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina, taking 42 lives and costing more than $16 billion in estimated damage. Now, five years later, many residents and communities are still reeling from the storm’s floodwaters. Blue tarps remain on unpatched roofs, businesses have not returned and communities have experienced disproportionate recoveries. 

The immediate and residual impacts from Hurricanes Florence and Matthew, Tropical Storm Fred and other subsequent unnamed flooding events have had long-lasting impacts on communities. As a result, these events have encouraged state leaders to take action to better prepare for future storms.  

Environmental Defense Fund thanks leaders, as well as businesses, conservation groups and community members, for working to build a more flood-resilient North Carolina. Let’s look at how far we’ve come in the last five years.  

LUMBERTON, NC – SEPTEMBER 14 : 40 members of the National Guard and 100 volunteers fill sand bags and build a wall across train tracks where flood waters flowed into Lumberton in hurricanes past behind West Lumberton Baptist Church on Friday, Sept 14, 2018 in Lumberton, NC. North Carolina State Senator Danny Earl Britt, Jr. organized the action through facebook in defiance of CSX Transportation but with permission of the Governor to try and prevent major flooding in the area. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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It’s nearly one year since Hurricane Ian. Will Florida be ready when another storm hits?

It was just last fall when Hurricane Ian, now classified as a category 5 storm, wreaked havoc across the state of Florida. Residents braced the eye of the storm as Ian made landfall on the state’s southwestern side, and millions more watched as communities, businesses and families changed forever.  

Ian nearly decimated Sanibel, a beloved vacation spot known for its array of colorful seashells, while it uprooted trees and tore off roofs in Fort Myers. Not to mention, inland communities suffered from flooding due to excessive rainfall, power lines went down and a series of destructive tornados followed Ian’s path. Not long after, Hurricane Nicole rocked northeast Florida, washing away beaches. 

Fast forward one year and where do we stand? Ian, then Nicole, now Idalia – it’s time to ask ourselves if Florida will be ready when another big storm hits. Here at EDF, the Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds team is focused on building resilience in Florida and ensuring communities are prepared for the increasingly frequent and severe weather events that are predicted. In recent months, there’s been a lot of progress – but there’s still a long way to go. Let’s look at how far we’ve come, and ways leaders can further prioritize a more resilient future.  

Damage and destruction on the west coast of Florida (Naples, Matlacha, Pine Island) caused by Hurricane Ian

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Hurricane season is here again. And finally, leaders are addressing multiple flood risks.

Every year hurricanes present a variety of threats to communities along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. And these risks aren’t just from storm surge.

Harvey and Ida showed us the effect of heavy rainfall, while Hurricane Florence demonstrated how rivers can overflow into homes and businesses. Meanwhile, climate change is impacting sea level rise, which increases sunny day flooding and the trauma caused from storm events.

Flooding doesn’t just impact coastlines, it impacts entire communities both inland and by the water. It hinders parents’ ability to bring their children to school and it limits patients’ access to vital healthcare and medical services. Not to mention, flooding has inequitable impacts on the wealth, health and wellbeing of millions of families.

flooding from hurricane

As we enter into the 2023 hurricane season, we’re reminded of the urgent need to implement natural disaster mitigation strategies that address comprehensive flood and storm risks. Acting before the next storm strikes means protecting both communities and ecosystems, in addition to saving nearly six times the cost spent on disaster recovery.

The good news? Over the past year, leaders have responded to our call to act – a call that was supported by more than a hundred organizations around the country. Here are two major ways their efforts can prepare us for the next hurricane: Read More »

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4 ways to reduce disproportionate flood risk and build resilience for all communities

More Americans are at risk from flooding than ever before, and that risk is growing rapidly as climate change fuels more intense hurricanes and rainfall, and as sea level rise threatens coastal communities across the country.   

However, flood risk is not equally distributed. In this country, we have a flood risk gap that places low-income communities and communities of color at higher risk from flooding. Systemic inequities compound underlying risks and drive disproportionate impacts from climate change to these communities. This gap is visible in many coastal areas, where communities of extreme wealth and poverty exist within a few square miles, yet have unequal protections against storms, flooding and sea level rise.  Read More »

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Florida has plans to address coastal flooding, but they lack natural solutions

Florida is home to pristine beaches, diverse and exotic wildlife, and unparalleled natural landscapes. This environment drives the state’s booming tourism industry — approximately 131 million tourists visited Florida in 2019 and the state’s beaches alone produce an estimated $50 billion in travel and tourism annually.

But flooding from sea level rise and hurricanes increasingly threatens the safety of Florida’s residents, environment and economy.

First Street Foundation estimates over 1.8 million Florida properties are at risk of flooding, with that number increasing to nearly 2.2 million by 2050. Read More »

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How states can finance coastal resilience before the next disaster

As climate change drives more intense storms, hurricane-related costs in the United States have increased 1,100% since 1980, and the population of counties prone to hurricane damage has increased at least 22% faster than the overall U.S. population has grown.

State governments must prioritize rebuilding better and investing in climate resilience now to avoid the skyrocketing costs of future disasters. Every $1 invested to mitigate a disaster saves $6 in recovery. Read More »

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North Carolina confronts climate change with forthcoming resilience plan

Update: North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper released the state’s first Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan on June 2, 2020. See our statement in response here

Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Arthur brushed by North Carolina’s Outer Banks two weeks before the official start of hurricane season and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. While damage was minimal, the storm was an urgent reminder of the state’s need to build climate resilience.

As North Carolina recovers from a slate of recent hurricanes, state officials are moving quickly to build resilience ahead of future storms. Gov. Cooper is expected to release the state’s first resilience plan in early June, providing a framework that will help the state move quickly toward a more resilient future. Read More »

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New York just took a huge step toward funding lasting climate resilience

Earlier this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented an ambitious challenge to the state Legislature: Pass a $3 billion bond to boost climate resilience and mitigate the impacts of sea level rise while preserving the state’s natural resources.

Last month, at the height of the coronavirus, the Legislature responded, passing a budget bill that included the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act.

The measure is expected to go to voters in the fall. If a majority approves the bond, it will put New York on a path to building lasting resilience, while also stimulating the economy, creating jobs and benefiting the state’s most vulnerable communities. Read More »

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Experts warn of a more active hurricane season. We need more wetlands, fast.

Hurricane season is just around the corner, but experts are already predicting an above-average season.

Researchers at Colorado State University and meteorologists at Accuweather each released predictions indicating that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season could be cause for concern with the potential for up to nine hurricanes and an “above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States.”

Adding additional concern, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are currently extremely warm, creating a recipe for intensifying storms. Read More »

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New Jersey prepares for future with seas rising faster than anticipated

Coastal states are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and that is especially true in New Jersey. To better understand and plan for this risk, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) released a new report by Rutgers University that examines the state’s historical rates of sea level rise and updates future projections.

The report finds that sea level has increased at a higher-than-average rate for the Garden State, and seas could rise by an additional six feet by 2100.

Nearly eight years after Superstorm Sandy devastated the state, this and other report findings can help state planners and policymakers take proactive measures to help build resilience and mitigate impacts from rising seas and future storms. Read More »

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