answering five questions based on the PowerPoint provided about sociology topic.. understanding_disa

  

answering five questions based on the PowerPoint provided about sociology topic..
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Understanding Disaster
Vulnerability: Floods and Hurricanes
by Nicole Youngman
Inequalities and Disaster vulnerability
• While natural disasters may come across as
sudden events, they are caused by interactions
among three systems: 1) human social and cultural
systems; 2) the built environment; and 3) the
preexisting natural environments in which they are
embedded.
• Social inequalities matter in communities’ efforts
to bounce back from experience of disasters.
• Some residents (based on various aspects of
inequality) of disaster prone areas are much more
vulnerable than others – based on inequalities
• Natural disaster vulnerability is increasing
worldwide.
• What are some of the reasons?
• High rates of conversion of natural
environments into built environments
• Climate change resulting in sea level rise,
unpredictable weather patterns
• Increasing urbanization leading to high density
of population
Hurricane Katrina
• In August 2005
• 1,700 people were killed; mostly in Louisiana,
a few in Mississippi and other states
• Flood that accompanied the storm engulfed
80% of New Orleans.
• Inundated almost all of St. Bernard and
Plaquemines counties.
• Importantly, it obliterated the Mississippi Gulf
Coast
• 30-feet storm surge
• Because of high level of development along the coastal
line, more people were placed in harm’s way
• New Orleans’s 1,100 deaths and widespread
destruction were caused by failed flood-control system
• poor engineering, especially of the levees that were to
block surging stormwater were breached
• unwise land-use decisions;
• prioritizing economic growth over public safety
Worst Affected




Poor people
African Americans
Elderly people
Women
Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy
• Hit coastal areas of New York and New Jersey in
October 29, 2012.
• Killed 140 people in US and Canada; 70 in the
Caribbean
• Had a diameter of 800 miles – unusual
• The hurricane winds merged with winter weather
systems
• 9 feet storm surges atop high tides
• Washed away homes destroyed NYC’s
transportation and electrical infrastructure
Hurricane Sandy
• Increasing rate of hurricanes in northeast is
consistent with scientists claims that climate
change may impact in the form of more
catastrophic hurricanes and storm systems
• Over half of NYC area deaths took place in
working and middle class neighborhoods of State
Island (there was a development boom a few
decades prior)
• People were still suffering months after the
disaster struck
Understanding Vulnerability
• Sociologists distinguish among different types
of disaster vulnerability
• Physical vulnerability – one’s geographical
location (eg. those in low lying areas)
• Social vulnerability – refers to preexisting
conditions, rooted in social inequalities that
potentially affect different social groups
differently.
Social Vulnerability in New Orleans
• Those in poorer communities may not have
the resources to “run from hurricanes”.
• Poorer African Americans in 9th Ward (low
lying, adjacent to the Industrial Canal
connecting Lake Pontchartrain and River
Mississippi) were among the worst affected.
• Wealthy communities in Lakeview area were
also affected; but endowed with better
resources they could rebuild relatively quickly.
Gender and Disaster Vulnerability
• Gender: such disasters typically affect single
mothers more than others
• Often women end up doing a lot of the work at
home as part of post-hurricane reconstruction –
considered “women’s work” even when they may
have a day job.
• Stresses – men and women may have different
coping strategies as part of recovering from
hurricane induced losses; families in stress and
marital discord may result
Disaster vulnerability and Gender
• Traumatized children may “act out” – adding
to problems these mothers face; or even
caregivers who are mostly women
• With no outside help, many women end up
staying home to tackle responsibilities for
rebuilding full time; while their spouses go out
and work long hours
• Such disasters cause other types of stress
which may breakdown families and marriages.
• Evacuations also present types of social
vulnerability that may affect different
populations (eg. those who have cars and
those who don’t; those who can afford gas,
road trip and hotel stay and those who can’t)
• Age – 60% of those who drowned in Hurricane
Katrina were 61 or older.
• Older people – with mobility problems — are
highly vulnerable to such disasters.
Three Types of Mitigation
• Structural
• Infrastructural
• Non-Structural
Structural Mitigation
• Strategies in coastal areas and river
floodplains
• Based on large engineering projects to stop
flooding and erosion
• Levees, floodwalls, groins, bank stabilization,
beach nourishment.
Infrastructural Mitigation
• Efforts to make infrastructural systems –
communication lines, power lines, better
building codes etc. – more resilient to high
winds, flood etc.
• Managing vehicle traffic on expressways
during emergencies
• Reinstalling broken communication systems
Nonstructural Mitigation
• Focuses on keeping people and property out
of harm’s way in the first place
• Stricter zoning laws that prohibit buildings in
some parts of a floodplain or coastal area;
• Restoring wetlands that absorb floodwaters
and storm surges.
• Eg: moving communities to higher ground.
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7unlPvNx
LLA
Katrina and Mitigations in New
Orleans
• Infrastructural mitigation in the case of Katrina was
relatively better than that of earlier hurricanes.
• The “contraflow” plan (page 183) put in place during an
earlier hurricane helped speed up evacuation before
Katrina made landfall.
• Yet, there were reports about slow rescue operations;
lack of facilities for those in dire need
• However, structural mitigation failed in New Orleans.
• The levees that were to protect coastal communities
from surging storm waters breached leading to heavy
flooding of the city.
• Ironically, New Orleans relied heavily on
structural mitigation that failed.
• Post-Katrina forensic investigations pointed
out that the levees and floodwall systems
were severely flawed even though the initial
claim was that they could withstand up to a
Category III hurricane.
The need for nonstructural mitigation
• Part of the reason for this failure is the lack of
nonstructural mitigation.
• As part of developing New Orleans, wetlands
were dried up and new canals dug
• It became apparent during Katrina that if the
wetlands were retained, they would have
helped absorb flood waters
• Canals led to “funnel effect” – funneling more
flood waters into the city
• Oil industry had dug many canals as part of oil
exploration
• Timber industry had, over the years, cut down
large number of cypress trees that grow in the
rich alluvial soil near the sea mouth of Mississippi
River. As a result, the natural protection that
trees provided from storm surges was lost.
• Improved non-structural mitigation requires
paying more attention to risks and vulnerability
rather than ignore these for the sake of economic
growth.
Flood Insurance
• NFIP provides low cost, subsidized flood
insurance (homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover)
if the local municipality has chosen to join the
program
• The municipalities, then, were required to adopt
land use policies that would not increase
residences and businesses in high risk areas – this
provision is not properly enforced
• Economists call it a moral hazard – risk taking
behavior increases due to insurance availability
Decreasing Vulnerability
• Stricter building codes need to be enforced even
when opposed by real estate businesses
• A balance of structural and non-structural
mitigation efforts
• There have been efforts by various governments
to buy out houses from high risk areas (esp.
lowlying areas) to convert them into green
spaces, but people haven’t always been willing to
sell their houses
• A successful buyout program took place in North
Dakota after the Red River flooding in 1997.

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