We’re Ignoring the Best Way to Protect Ourselves From Hurricanes
America has largely destroyed its coastal wetlands, which act as sponges for hurricanes, even as the government encourages people to build in flood-prone areas.
The worst damage from hurricanes doesn't always come from wind. In fact, some of history’s most damaging hurricanes—like Sandy, for example—were very low-power but caused massive amounts of destruction because they sat over land for long periods of time and just dumped water. As new science is starting to reveal that hurricanes are slowing down (which you can read more about in the previous story in this series about hurricane research and also in the forthcoming story about hurricanes and climate change), the storms are picking up larger and larger amounts of water on their way to landfall and then spending days sitting in place raining.
There are a whole slew of major problems with the amount of water that a hurricane brings with it. The first one is that in the U.S. we have largely destroyed our wetlands, which—when they are naturally occurring—act as barriers to high waves and also sponges to absorb excess water. Another is that the U.S. government has passed laws that reduce insurance rates in places that are prone to flooding, which encourages people to build and rebuild in flood-prone regions and hides the amount of risk they are taking by doing that. Combine this with a lack of infrastructure upgrades and a lack of planning for future storms and you have a recipe for disaster.
The Essential Wetlands