Photo by A. H. Jerriod Avant.

By the numbers: The disparate impacts of hurricane season

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be remembered as one of the most destructive seasons in recorded history. This is not a coincidence. A warmer climate increases the fuel needed to power these destructive storms, which will increase hurricane-related risk to vulnerable populations throughout the Southeast. Sea-level rise and low-lying terrain, combined with the impacts of systemic racism and income inequality, will put communities of color in particular at even greater risk in the wake of these more intense, landfalling hurricanes.

We have already seen these dynamics play out, to devastating effect, in Louisiana and North Carolina. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. Much of the destruction was concentrated in low-lying communities that had long been home to African Americans, due to generations of racist policies. Recovery in the hardest-hit areas has been slow, and the population level has not yet returned to pre-Katrina levels. Rural regions, such as Eastern North Carolina, are also susceptible to hurricanes’ heavy rainfalls. When Hurricane Matthew struck the state last year, it sent water surging through the low-lying coastal regions and into the open-air ponds used to store animal waste. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) dot the landscape in Eastern North Carolina. Communities of color, in particular, are vulnerable. They disproportionately live in the floodplain, and many are located downstream from factory farming facilities.

To paint the picture of how natural disasters can combine with social and systemic forces to punish marginalized groups more than others in the Southeast, we take a look at recent storms’ legacies.

Click on the image above to enlarge.

Sources:

  1. Exceedance Probability Analysis for Selected Storm Events
  2. Exceedance Probability Analysis for Selected Storm Events
  3. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Table of Events
  4. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Table of Events
  5. $120 billion in Katrina federal relief wasn't always assured 
  6. New Orleans is still learning from the lessons of Katrina – Houston should too
  7. Who Lives in New Orleans and Metro Parishes Now?  
  8. Who Lives in New Orleans and Metro Parishes Now?
  9. The Location of Displaced New Orleans Residents in the Year After Hurricane Katrina
  10. Hurricane Katrina migration: Where did people go? Where are they coming from now?
  11. Reviewing Hurricane Harvey's catastrophic rain and flooding
  12. National Hurricane Center Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Matthew
  13. Exposing Fields of Filth: Landmark Report Maps Feces-Laden Hog and Chicken Operations in North Carolina
  14. What Climate Change Means for Louisiana
  15. The World is Halfway to 2°C

 

  • About

    Alexa L. Wood is a PhD student in Forestry and Environmental Studies at North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on climate change perceptions and vulnerability among farmers from marginalized populations.