Would the South Mississippi coast be prepared for another natural disaster?

 

Irma’s location and the what-ifs

Reaching 400 miles across, Hurricane Irma is larger than the state of Ohio. Hurricane Irma is currently approaching the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico as the people of Florida prepare for the worse (as of 11 a.m. ET, Wednesday). The Category 5 storm’s eye moves with sustained winds of 185 mph and even higher gusts. It is 65 miles east southeast of St. Thomas and about 140 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico (National Hurricane Center).

For the future, the hurricane is forecasted to move north of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday afternoon. Strong winds and heavy rains are expected without directly hitting the islands, according to ABC News. By Sunday morning, Irma could be approaching mainland Florida and the Florida Keys.  The National Hurricane Center has reported that it is too soon to specify the location and magnitude of Irma; it all depends whether the storm shifts further to the east or west.

At the moment, South Mississippi is in no direct danger of Hurricane Irma. WLOX reported Irma would have to take a sharp turn to the north before getting too far into the Gulf of Mexico. When that turn takes place would determine how far Irma will land. As the days pass, more will be determined.

Profit and loss from natural disasters

In recent years, the nation has been plagued with enormous cost due to the increasingly frequent occurrence of “super-storms.” In the rebound of Hurricane Harvey and its’ estimated cost of recovery, it may be time to soberly assess our economic and social readiness for current and future natural disasters.

With all natural disasters, come heavy expenses. From the cost of public service, shelters, to the daily loss of business and production, the financial burden reaches into hundreds of billions of dollars. With the loss of homes, prolonged displacement of residents, and destruction of infrastructure, price-tags quickly skyrocket. More immediately, the  shortage of vital supplies, quickly drive-up the cost of goods, often bringing higher prices known as “price-gouging.” As tap water is less available and more dangerous, the demand for something as simple as bottled-water rises. In short, simple necessities like bottled-water and gasoline fuel becomes extremely valuable.

Clean-up efforts and the money

A massive clean-up for Houston has already begun and many people from all over the world are headed there to assist in the recovery. FEMA is looking for over 700 inspectors and they will make $4000-5000 weekly. Also, clean-up workers are expected to make as much as $2500 or more weekly. Fumes, molds and toxic water are just a few issues for workers, as they clean-up Houston. Generally, natural disasters conveniently provide an economic boom for private industries. These private companies benefit from lucrative contracts in the aftermath of disasters, as they assist communities with restoration. 

Billions in damage since 1980:

Hugo (1989) $18 billion

Andrew (1992) $48 billion

Charley (2004) $21 billion

Ivan (2004) $27 billion

Rita (2005) $24 billion

Katrina (2005) $160 billion

Wilma (2005)  $24 billion

Ike (2008) $35 billion

Irene (2011)  $15 billion

Sandy (2012) $70 billion

Insurance companies always win

For many poor people, another concern awaits them after finding shelter and safety.  The challenge of home replacement and insurance claims add to the stress and despair. There are hurdles to get over as homeowners deal with the loss of property. About 80% of Harvey victims were without flooding insurance. And for the covered residents of the flooded area, the path to receiving equitable pay-outs is sometimes an issue. After super-storm Sandy, 60 Minutes did a segment titled “The Storm After the Storm” that reported “wide scale fraud where original damage reports were changed and made to look less bad.” Similar reports were released following Hurricane Katrina documenting inaccurate wind and water damage cases. Therefore, when an insurance company refuses to pay claims to people that have lost their homes, that family is responsible for providing another solution. 

Families still displaced

In Hurricane Sandy (2012), a Long Island engineering company and one of its former executives were charged for minimizing insurance payments to a homeowner. Not to mention, there are still currently displaced families from Hurricane Katrina and Sandy. Though hundreds of thousands of families are displaced by natural disasters, billions of funds go to recoveryOur most recent storm in Texas, Great Flood of Baton Rouge (2016), and super-storm Sandy have generated huge losses due to massive flooding. 

 Inevitable coastal flooding

Storm surge, waves, and tides are the perfect ingredients to coastal flooding, while precipitation and river flow also contribute during some storms. At least 1600 fatalities derived in Hurricane Katrina (2005) and many other deaths occurred directly, or indirectly, as a result of storm surge. Coastal residents have time to prepare now.

Toxic areas near us

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is no stranger to flood areas. Mississippi has a long history of flooding and hurricanes. One of the most pronounced problems on the Mississippi Gulf coast is residential flooding. Flash flooding takes over South Mississippi’s streets during any day or season.

Similarities of  Houston and Gulfport, Miss.

According to AP, the toxic area, Highlands Acid Pit site near Chandler’s home area, is flooded and the EPA confirmed that 13 of the 41 Superfund sites in Texas are also. Sites are “experiencing possible damage” due to the storm. This Highlands Acid Pit was filled in the 1950s with toxic sludge and sulfuric acid from oil and gas operations and it’s confirmed that the EPA has not yet been able to physically visit the Houston-area sites. There is a chance that the contaminated soil from the site may have been washed away.

A survey from EPA (2016) reported dioxins and other long-lasting toxins linked to birth defects and cancer can be found at this former waste pits.. As this toxic-runoff issue relates to Gulfport, Miss., if a Hurricane Irma or Harvey were to hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, would the average resident be ready? Gulfport currently has toxic wetland areas that are contaminated with lead and arsenic, and other deadly toxic waste. How would this affect those communities that are located near it?

 

Additional information for upcoming Hurricane Irma

The National Hurricane Center has reported that there could be disturbances in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, all coastal  residents are encouraged to prepare for hurricane season which is June 1 through Nov. 30 each year. People who live in low-lying or flood-prone areas should evacuate when a tropical storm or hurricane approaches, according to National Hurricane guide

In short notices of emergency, Gulf Coast residents may have a day or two to prepare, while other situations might call for an immediate evacuation. Preparation is vital to ensuring the evacuation is done quickly and safely.  For interested coastal residents, there are ways to prepare for the flooding of your home. For weather updates, the National Weather Service (NWS), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), issues flood alerts when weather conditions with flooding become a threat. To better prepare, follow instructions on how to properly get ready for the worse.  It is advised for coastal residents to stay updated with the news, create emergency kits and plans, gather documentation and identify shelters. These are few steps to getting ready.

Links for assistance: 

2017 National Hurricane Guide

Mississippi Evacuation Plan

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency: MEMA advises all homes to have an evacuation plan and fully-stocked supply kit.

(601) 933-6362

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Phone: 800-621-3362 (711 or Video Relay Service Available)

WJZD 94.5 FM Station:  10211 Southpark Drive, Gulfport 39503

WJZD 94.5 App

Request Line/Contest Line
(228) 896-9455

Office Line
(228) 896-5307

Follow Hurricane Irma

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