Left Menu
Development News Edition

Mega storms hitting US, experts calls for 'managed retreat' to safer areas

Mega storms hitting US, experts calls for 'managed retreat' to safer areas
Speaking to reporters in May, Hogan was channelling the bewilderment of many communities in the United States at the existential threat posed by the impacts of climate change. (Image Credit: Twitter)

When flash floods tore through Ellicott City, Maryland, this spring, Governor Larry Hogan called it a "once-every-1,000-year" event - even though it was the second such catastrophe within two years.

Speaking to reporters in May, Hogan was channelling the bewilderment of many communities in the United States at the existential threat posed by the impacts of climate change.

Floods and mega-storms - including two that hit the U.S. East Coast in the past month - are increasingly battering the country, and recovery costs are spiralling upwards.

Yet, the federal government has no overarching plan to deal with a crisis that is likely to render many communities unsustainable, with some experts already calling for a "managed retreat" to safer areas away from coasts and rivers.

Privately, many people are "resigned to the fact that they're on borrowed time in their (waterfront) properties," said Amy Cotter of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

"But then if you talk to a room full of people or politicians, nobody wants to step out there and say we need to sell, to make a change."

About 300,000 coastal homes, valued at almost $118 billion, are at risk of chronic flooding by 2045, according to advocacy group the Union of Concerned Scientists, which predicted in June that the figure would rise to $1 trillion by the end of the century.

Inland, about 41 million Americans are threatened by river flooding - three times the government's current estimate - according to a report earlier this year by researchers from the University of Bristol.

"We have seen escalating flood damage every decade from the 1980s until now, to the point that it almost seems to be doubling every decade," said Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

Despite the rising threat, he said, it remains difficult to discuss the idea of buying properties and moving populations.

"Politically it just isn't acceptable to a lot of citizens," Berginnis said.


Nonetheless, some municipal governments are coming up with creative responses.

In Ellicott City, that meant a strategy to abandon a flood-prone section of the historic town, which sits in a valley and is crisscrossed by three rivers.

The county council this month approved a five-year flood-mitigation plan, which includes the purchase and demolition of 19 commercial and residential buildings and the expansion of a waterway.

Kelly McMillan, who owns two buildings in the city's downtown, including one where she lives, said she supports the plan.

"It's impossible to see how it would be safe to rebuild properties built over a stream in an area that had two deadly floods in two years," said McMillan.

That approach is becoming more common as communities are forced to grapple directly with the effects of climate change, which are increasingly hard to ignore.

"We have not begun any kinds of discussions about the managed retreat, but I've met with all of the major investors and sat down with the maps so I can start that conversation," said Nancy Shaver, mayor of St. Augustine, Florida.

The city is expected to face a sea level rise of two feet (61 cm) by 2030. But even so, Shaver said the discussion is fraught with political pitfalls, as many residents are reluctant to abandon their homes.

"We'll do this at the neighbourhood level," she said. "We'll have to do it very carefully, and we're not there yet."


While relocating communities may be safer and less expensive in the long run, the short term question is: Who pays for it?

While the federal government has long funded post-disaster home buyouts, little money has been earmarked for pre-disaster programmes – although there are signs that may be changing.

This month, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a law allowing some of the national disaster relief funds to be used for pre-disaster projects, including home buyouts, according to an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is preparing rules on how to disburse $12 billion worth of pre-storm "mitigation" funding, which can be used for buyouts, said a spokesman.

The government is "helping states and local communities to prepare for future events by committing an unprecedented level of funding to make them stronger and more resilient," said the office of the department's secretary, Ben Carson, in emailed comments.

Such measures are welcome but do not go far enough, according to Rachel Cleetus, lead author of the Union of Concerned Scientists study, who argued that the United States needs a coordinated national policy around managed retreat.

"We only think about this in the wake of disasters," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Instead, the country needs "better mapping to find these places ahead of time and give people the option of home buyouts."

She added that only a federal programme would be equipped to deal with thorny issues like deciding how to assist renters versus homeowners, how much taxpayer assistance should go to rich property owners and easing disruptions to housing markets.

If federal officials decide to take up the task, they may look to communities like Hampton, Virginia, for advice.

The coastal city has experienced eight of its 11 highest storm surges within the past two decades, according to Terry O'Neill, director of the Community Development Department.

In response, officials designed a plan, approved by the city council in January, that includes restoring coastal floodplains, as well as several along rivers that run through the city.

As part of a pilot project for that plan, more than a dozen homes have already been removed from areas on floodplains that had been developed, leaving excess water with nowhere to go.

"We're not going to pick up an entire city and move or abandon it," O'Neill said. "We have to figure out how to address these issues to our benefit so we can sustain ourselves."

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



JNU Administration's 100-meter challenge before JNUSU

For the first time in its history, Jawaharlal Nehru University JNU Administration is seeking permanent deployment of local police to keep protesting students at 100 meters away from the Administrative Block. It would be interesting to see h...

Sentiment Analysis of Twitter users during COP25: Governments losing trust on Climate Action

Sentiment analysis of Twitter users during COP25 in Madrid, being held from December 2-13, shows widespread fear on climate change due to global warming but almost no trust on governments in meeting the emission targets. In the analysis the...

These innovators are making humanitarian response more efficient

These alarming trends prompt a call for the world to not only address the ongoing crisis but also to adopt innovative approaches to fulfill the growing humanitarian needs in such emergencies. ...

Hyderabad Encounter: A sentiment analysis of public mood on day of encounter

Sentiment analysis of twitter users revealed that they showered salutes on Hyderabad police for eliminating alleged gang rapists of the veterinary doctor but only a few believe in cops version of successive events leading to encounter....


Latest News

Opposition hampering national interest, trying to create uproar over CAA, says Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Saturday slammed the opposition while blaming it for creating uproar in the nation over the Citizenship Amendment Act and said that they were trying to hamper the national interest. I believe that some ...

Reed's caddie 'shoves' fan at Presidents Cup

Patrick Reeds caddie Kessler Karain Saturday shoved a fan at the Presidents Cup as tensions boiled over after endless barracking of the player by spectators. Reed, part of Tiger Woods US team at Royal Melbourne, was docked two strokes for i...

North Korea conducts another 'crucial test' at Sohae launch site : KCNA

Seoul, Dec 14 AFP North Korea has conducted another crucial test at its Sohae satellite launch site, state media reported Saturday, as nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington remain stalled with a deadline approaching. The ann...

It's time to rise to save Country, its democracy: Sonia Gandhi

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday called upon people to fight against injustice and said the Congress party will not step behind and will fulfil its duty of saving the country and its democracy till the last breath. Addressing the...

Give Feedback