Hurricane Irma: Bad planning and climate change denial make Florida even more vulnerable
The Tampa Bay area appears to be in the direct path of Hurricane Irma, which may remain a category 4 hurricane when it comes ashore in Florida this weekend. Irma has already killed at least 18 people in the Caribbean on Barbuda, St Martin, and the British Virgin Islands, where this biggest hurricane in at least 82 years left behind massive rubble.
Hurricane Irma also struck the northeast part of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, but not the island’s most heavily populated areas. Three people were killed there by the hurricane. From there Irma traveled to the Turks and Caicos where it brought heavy rain and wind, knocking out power lines and damaging roofs but leaving behind no known fatalities.
At Mother Jones, Rebecca Leber writes—Here’s Why Florida Is so Much More Vulnerable to a Hurricane Like Irma Right Now:
Hurricane Irma is making a beeline for Florida this weekend. Now a Category 4 storm, it is so big and has proved to be so devastating that Governor Rick Scott has advised the 20.6 million residents of the Sunshine State “to be prepared to evacuate soon.”
Florida’s vulnerability to a catastrophic storm has been obvious for years. Poor development planning, storm amnesia, a faulty insurance system, and a strong dose of climate-change denial have made coastal Florida, especially Miami and Tampa, much more vulnerable to Irma.
Miami was last hit by a hurricane close to Irma’s size in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, hammered the city. As The New York Times reported, “Central and South Florida have grown at a breathtaking pace since 1990, adding more than 6 million people. Glittering high-rises and condominiums keep sprouting up along Miami Beach and other coastal areas. A lot more valuable property now sits in harm’s way.” If a storm of the intensity of Hurricane Andrew struck today, the reinsurer Swiss Re estimated the physical damage in Miami alone would cost an additional $80 to $100 billion more than Andrew’s $26.5 billion.
In a 2013 World Bank and OECD analysis of 136 cities with the most property at risk to wind and storm surge, both Tampa and Miami were in the top ten, and sea level rise from climate change was not even included as a risk factor. In 2015, Tampa topped risk modeler RMS’s list for cities facing the greatest economic losses in a major storm. Its odds for billions in damages to the low-lying city were considered to be 1 in 80, compared to Miami (1 in 125), New York (1 in 200), and New Orleans (1 in 440).
There are a lot of reasons why the stakes are now so much higher than they used to be. Some are psychological, others are practical, and many are self-inflicted.[…]
(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)