Ian shows the future of Gulf Coast communities will look different

Published: Oct. 1, 2022 at 11:07 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As we get a new perspective of how widespread and devastating the destruction from Ian is to the state of Florida, environmental experts say this shows the future of Gulf Coast communities will look a lot different and the impacts hit a lot closer to home than we may think.

“Hurricane Ian represents a pattern that we’re seeing in the Gulf of Mexico and really across the Caribbean, in terms of hurricanes that are intensifying quite rapidly, not giving us a lot of notice to prepare,” Jesse Keenan, Favrot II Associate Professor of Sustainable Real Estate at Tulane University, said.

It’s a lot like what we saw with Ida but a lot more widespread. Ian is predicted to go down as one of the most damaging and impactful storms in U.S. history with some of the highest wind speeds we’ve ever seen.

“What we see in Florida from Naples all the way up to Cape Coral, an extended amount of geography, really is, again, not just the destruction of housing, but significant impacts on basic infrastructure from power to drinking water,” Keenan said.

Keenan draws the comparison to Katrina.

“The scale devastation that we see in Florida, like Hurricane Katrina here in New Orleans, is actually going to be a multi-generational commitment to recover and grow from this. It is going to take really decades,” Keenan said.

Hurricane Ian especially underscores the vulnerability of the nation’s barrier islands. As hurricanes become more destructive, experts question whether such exposed communities can keep rebuilding in the face of climate change.

“Some of these barrier islands will rebuild,” Keenan said. “Many of these counties are quite reliant on a local tax base from tourism, but in some cases, and in some places, it simply won’t make sense the infrastructure costs will be quite extensive and I think what we’ll see is much of what we’ve seen across the United States, which is after large disasters like this, really only the wealthy can remain.”

He doubts many will be able to rebuild on a scale that could better withstand these strong storms.

“It is very important when we think about building codes and how we build but really the future question is where we’re going to build,” Keenan said.

The impact doesn’t stop at the state line.

“As prices go up, as reinsurance costs go up from Florida, that’s actually going to impact what was already a very dire situation in Louisiana,” Keenan said. “So, this feels like a distant hurricane, but reality is we’re going to be paying for this out of our own pockets.”

Keenan says we are looking at a different future for the gulf-- and that there are good and bad aspects to it-- but there is no doubt we are in a state of change.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click Here to report it. Please include the headline.