Managing Editor Lauren Baltas discusses hurricane season in her July 2018 editorial letter
With a grand entrance, the 2018 hurricane season arrived. Actually, it arrived a little early.
Hurricane season technically begins June 1, but at the end of May, Subtropical Storm Alberto swept through the Gulf, ultimately making landfall in Florida and deluging the Southeast with rain. CNN reported that the storm reached maximum wind speeds of 45 mph and claimed the lives of two journalists. On May 30, the western part of North Carolina declared a State of Emergency due to mudslides in the Southeast caused by heavy rain and flooding. Two additional lives were lost due to a landslide in North Carolina, according to CNN. Even here in Chicago, we felt the effects of Alberto, as it dropped record rainfall that caused flooding throughout the Chicagoland area.
With Alberto past, the U.S.—and its storm water and erosion control professionals, in particular—is forced to reflect on the last hurricane season, which brought hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate in quick succession. Last year, SWS editors flew to Houston to survey some of the flood damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, and though the impact of the storm was considerable, we spoke with professionals in the area who were confident that Houston could recovery fairly quickly. The same can’t be said for Puerto Rico.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 4,645 deaths can be attributed to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, which largely impacted the territory. This is more than 70 times the official death toll of 64. The hurricane caused widespread damage to infrastructure, and according to the study, one third of the deaths can be attributed to delayed or interrupted health care. Nearly 10 months later, the territory is still feeling Maria’s impact, as recovery is still underway. According to CNN, 12,870 Puerto Ricans are still without power.
The effects of a major storm event are lasting. This is not a exceptional statement. The status of an area’s infrastructure before a storm and the resources available to it after the storm affect its ability to recover. Houston and other parts of the U.S. mainland undoubtedly are still feeling the effects of the 2017 hurricane season, but they are recovering faster than Puerto Rico, thanks to proximity and access to aid and assistance. As Puerto Rico prepares to face another hurricane season, its status begs the question: what could we have done better? Share your take. And, if you can, donate to an organization helping the cause, like ConPRmetidos, a nonprofit based in San Juan dedicated to creating a “stable, productive and self-sufficient Puerto Rico.”