After a Natural Disaster, Is It Better to Rebuild or Retreat?

It’s a question that will become only more urgent as climate change continues to fuel extreme weather.

NEW ORLEANS — Should communities hit over and over again by natural disasters — like hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and tornadoes — keep rebuilding? Or should they retreat from areas that are especially disaster prone?

It’s a question that will become only more urgent as climate change continues to fuel extreme weather. And it is especially resonant here in New Orleans, which has suffered untold extreme weather events in its 300-year history. The most damaging, of course, was 13 years ago, when the winds and rains of Hurricane Katrina breached the city’s flawed hurricane defenses.

It could apply to San Juan, P.R., still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria; to towns in California virtually erased by forest fires; to neighborhoods in Houston repeatedly soaked by rising waters.

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