Emergency Management

The Ripple Effects of Hurricanes

The Ripple Effects of Hurricanes

When do we typically hear about hurricanes?

We’ll hear them on the morning and nightly news, mostly. Weather men and women will show us the latest forecast along with their predictions of where the storm will hit, when, and what to expect.

After the named storm comes and goes there will often be coverage of the damage that occurred. Meteorologists and journalists alike cover the flooding and power outages. They’ll share the mass amounts of displacement, showing images of the make-shift shelters while a voice over of an interview with a directly affected citizen plays.

Maybe a few days will pass and additional coverage might be shown, perhaps highlighting the volunteer and other response efforts. But what feels like too soon after, another event or newsworthy story pushes forward and takes up the airtime.

That’s not an accurate depiction of what reality is, however. For the areas hit by hurricanes, clean-up doesn’t last a news cycle, it can last for months, even years after the storm makes landfall. Sure, flooding recedes and power will get restored relatively quickly, but the ripple effects from hurricanes can often be the greatest challenges to overcome.

The Possible Overlooked After Effects

Restoring homes and business back to normal is one of the first things people often think of when a disaster strikes. Funding is also a closely connotated hurdle to overcome. Fortunately, federal money and other avenues are available and are able to help come up with the money needed to begin recovery. However, an unforeseen challenge quickly tends to rear its head: supply chain issues.

Having the means to afford to begin the recovery process doesn’t mean that the rest of the effort is going to be smooth sailing. When a widespread event such as a hurricane makes impact, there are thousands of people who are all trying to rebuild and rediscover a new normal. This means that suddenly there is an incredible amount of demand for both materials and labor, a demand that oftentimes, cannot be met with as much expediency as is wished for.

Storms can take out roads and bridges disrupting truck routes and shipping times. Rainfalls don’t even have to be record breaking to make an impact – even if the materials are coming from an area that experienced the outskirts of the hurricane, delays are to be expected. These hold ups are then only exacerbated by the incredible increase of demand from the severely affected areas.

Shelters are stood up in the wake of disasters and stay open while individuals and families are waiting for their homes and business to be ready. In many instances hotels become havens and in some instances are never able to return to their original purpose. Whether this is due to money, time or resources, a closure or reconfiguration of a hotel can often impact the surrounding neighborhoods.

If visitors and travelers no longer have a place to stay, or options become extremely limited, they might stop coming which in turn, causes shops, restaurants and more to feel the effects. Unfortunately this is a common theme as well as an aftershock that can be felt years after the initial storm.

Another challenge that could be considered unforeseen is managing the donations that are sent to communities. There tends to be a flood of aid, both monetary and otherwise, that is extremely helpful whether it be non-perishable items, time and labor, etc. There are also instances where donations are well intended, but unfortunately, not useful such as truck loads of teddy bears or old clothing unsuitable for the community’s climate.

Though these donations can make for a light hearted story, the reality is, everything sent does have to end up somewhere. And for many in the thick of disaster recovery, figuring out the necessary logistics is not at the top of their to-do list.

The final ripple effect we’ll discuss (though it is far from being the last) is the impact hurricanes have upon the health of those affected. As we discussed earlier, bottlenecks in supply chains can hold up recovery. More seriously, however, delay issues can impact patients being able to receive important medications and refills of prescriptions for days, if not weeks. Standing water and mold are often found to impact residents, especially in economically disadvantaged areas, which can lead to serious health complications if not treated.

It is not unusual for death rates to uptick in the weeks following a devastating storm, nor is it out of the ordinary for suicide hotline call rates to increase. Even though hurricane victims might not experience physical ailments after the fact, survivor’s guilt as well as PTSD or other symptoms of trauma can seriously impact their mental health and wellness.

Prevent Ripples from Turning into Waves

Ultimately the goal is that with mandated requirements instituted by federal and local entities, communities are prepared to handle being in a storm’s path. There must be the understanding, however, that preparedness can’t prevent unforeseen challenges but must provide the ability to address and take actionable steps to address them.

The after effects of a storm long outlast the news coverage received. It is imperative that when you are taking the steps to prepare for the next hurricane season, your organization is ready to manage what can become some of the most severe challenges; the unassuming ripple effects.

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