Welcome to 2019! And, by the way, mark your calendars: Hurricane season begins June 1. Are Coastal North Carolina residents and state and local government officials preparing? We all should be. The days of starting to think about hurricane preparations in late May are over — or need to be.
We know that many government entities and other agencies engage in emergency-planning year-round. From what we've experienced in coastal North Carolina over the past several years, we'd suggest that any entities or people potentially in harm's way need to up their games, not only in preparation, but in building more of the much-talked-about storm resiliency.
The trick is that working toward long-term resiliency and planning for the next hurricane season all must take place as Florence recovery efforts continue (and, to a lesser extent, the recovery from Matthew). That will be no easy feat. But as we think about adding resiliency, perhaps having Florence's fallout fresh in our minds will serve as a motivator.
We currently face three essential and very different challenges: short- and long-term recovery from Florence, planning now for the 2019 hurricane season and beginning serious efforts to make coastal North Carolina less vulnerable to the destruction and disruption hurricanes and related flooding have caused here in recent years.
(Two areas that rise to the top for us are making schools more stormproof — notably, from rain infiltration — and taking immediate strategic steps to ensure that flooding does not cut off highway access to our cities and towns.)
All three challenges will require much work and, yes, money. But as we've noted before, none of it will get done unless we make responding to hurricanes, flooding and sea level rise a greater priority. We don't need a "sky is falling" mentality, but we believe year-round mindfulness is necessary.
Unlike, say, a tornado or wildfire, hurricanes and flooding can affect entire portions of the state and millions of its people. Even when they do not cause massive property damage or disruptions, the widespread nature of hurricanes and flooding takes a big toll.
New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet put it well in a message about the need for storm resiliency: "The hurricane disrupted our homes, our businesses and our labor market. It impacted our infrastructure and other business capital, and our entire population was affected."
So, here, in the first week of January, we should be proactively preparing for the next hurricane — and the hurricanes 20 years from now. If we're not, we will likely find ourselves back in the same boat — sometimes literally. We shouldn't risk letting that happen.
REPRINTED FROM THE NEW BERN SUN JOURNAL