Hurricanes? New England wouldn't be ready either

Two men walk their bicycle along a flooded street on the waterfront of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as Hurricane Irma passes through on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

New England is no more prepared for the oncoming hurricane season than Houston was prepared for Hurricane Harvey, stated hurricane expert Suzana Camargo of the Columbia University Earth Observatory.

When asked whether or not New England was adequately prepared for Irma, Suzana Camargo, a research professor and hurricane expert at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University responded by saying that, “it really depends on exactly where the storm turns,” and that it’s essentially “too far out to say.”

Carmago did say that, “it could be a very dangerous situation” – and that she doesn’t believe that we are any more or less prepared for the hurricane than Houston was.

That the impact of hurricane Irma will be much more disastrous in Miami, Florida than it would have been, say, 80 years ago–due to the increase in people, houses, cars, buildings, and other forms of infrastructure
— Suzana Camargo

Urban development has contributed to the level of destruction. According to the Houston Chronicle, more than 360,000 new buildings were built in the United States between 2000 and 2015. Many are located in floodplains, which have only exacerbated the flooding from hurricane Harvey according to an article by the New Haven Register

Camargo said that based on past storms that have hit New England, such as Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene, “that the impact of hurricane Irma will be much more disastrous in Miami, Florida than it would have been, say, 80 years ago–due to the increase in people, houses, cars, buildings, and other forms of infrastructure.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimated the damages from Hurricane Harvey to be somewhere between $150 billion to $180 billion. Additionally, Hurricane Irma is projected to have a price tag of around $125 billion, and rising, according to CNBC’s Economy. And while Connecticut is not on the front lines of hurricanes in sub-tropic waters, New England will have its own challenges.

According to the National Climate Assessment, the Northeast has experienced a greater recent increase in extreme precipitation than any other region in the United States. Between 1958 and 2010, the Northeast saw more than a 70 percent increase in the amount of precipitation.

Sandy was reported to be responsible for about 150 deaths, approximately half of which occurred in the Northeast. Damages concentrated in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, were estimated at $60 to $80 billion, making Sandy the second most costly Atlantic hurricane in history behind Katrina, according to the National Climate Assessment

After Hurricane Sandy, $650,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and 8.5 million people were left without power.

Undergraduate student Mubasshirabanu (Mubu) Vhora, a physiology and neurobiology major here at the University of Connecticut, hailing from her hometown of Norwalk, CT experienced both Hurricanes Irene and Sandy as a shoreline resident.

“Before evacuating, I saw the water level rising fast, and watched as it came up onto the sidewalk near my apartment complex,” Vhora said. “When I got back to my apartment about two days later, there was a lot of damage done to the area: trees had fallen, some blocking the roads, and the bottom floor of her apartment complex was completely flooded.”

Vhora said that the administration of the state, and other states, could be better about coordinating resources and informing the public.

“I’m glad that our state is not being affected as severely as other states are, but it’s really sad to see the devastation that’s taking place in those other states,” Vhora said. “With regards to the administration, I don’t see what the administration is doing to help. I do see some independent organizations fundraising and donating to the cause, but help is not getting to where it needs to go fast enough. And right now, our government isn’t doing enough to lead the effort in providing help where it’s needed.”


Taylor Mayes is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at taylor.mayes@uconn.edu.