USA - The Great Blind Spot in Hurricane Preparedness
Hurricane season is getting longer. Building higher sea walls won’t save us.
Hurricane season is creeping its way deeper into spring. Last month, The Washington Post reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering officially moving up the start of the storm season from June 1 to May 15. The move, being reviewed by the NOAA’s National Hurricane Office in Miami, is the result of experts coming to the conclusion that, as global temperatures have consistently risen, so too have the frequency of pre-June storms.
According to the Post, the past six years have featured tropical storms forming before the official season start date, with last year’s Tropical Storm Arthur announced by the NOAA on May 16. By season’s end in December, 2020 ranked as the most active hurricane season in 15 years with 30 storms topping the 28-storm mark set by 2005.
How to measure hurricane season, however, isn’t as tricky as the other question global warming is already raising in coastal communities: how to prepare for it. A longer, more vicious hurricane season is just one part of the broader issue facing states, cities, and low-lying communities along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico that have already experienced what the threat of rising waters and accompanying storms will mean for their continued existence.
In Louisiana, the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—which enters with a substellar reputation, to say the least, given its colossal Katrina failures—are currently pursuing a $2 billion shoreline restoration project, known as the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion.* Initiated four years ago, the plan is designed to create roughly 28 square miles of marshes in the Barataria Basin, which has been eroding for years now.
The idea, according to NOLA.com, is to create a hole in the Mississippi River levee by the lower Plaquemines Parish and channel sediment-heavy river water into the West Bank wetlands. Rebuilding the marshes would mean future storm surges in the nearby West Bank communities would drop by a full foot.