Wednesday, May 22, 2019

How rural areas can become more hurricane-ready

Seven months after Hurricane Michael hit Florida's Gulf Coast, rural areas of the Panhandle still haven't recovered: many people are still living in tents and relying on food banks, and many businesses have left the area for good. Those rural areas suffered more severe damage because they were unprepared for the Category 5 storm, Eren Ozguven writes on The Conversation. Ozguven is a Florida State University engineering professor who has studied hurricane resilience for 13 years.

Though it's challenging to prepare for large, fast-moving storms like Michael, Ozguven and some of his FSU colleagues are working with Panhandle communities to help them improve their response plans ahead of the 2019 hurricane season. That includes planning for emergency communications if cell-phone towers get knocked out. "It also is important to assess which demographic and socioeconomic groups will be most affected by damage to power lines and roadways – for example, aging populations," Ozguven writes. "Studying power outages and roadway closures during hurricanes, together with a region’s physical features, reveals vulnerable locations that will be at high risk in future events."

It's especially important to create strong community training programs in rural areas and make sure neighbors can count on each other in emergencies. , Ozguven says planners must also make sure they have up-to-date information on rural populations to make sure no one is left behind, and involve rural communities in the planning.

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