by James A. Bacon
Combine the power of a Katrina-scale hurricane with the geographic proximity of a Hurricane Sandy, aim it at Hampton Roads, and what do you get? Old Dominion University professors Joshua G. Behr and Rafael Diaz cranked up their supercomputer to visualize what might happen.
A “Sandtrina” catastrophe would extend way beyond the loss to houses, buildings, roads and infrastructure to include widespread disruption to the economy and the health care system, they explain in “Hurricane Preparedness: Community Vulnerability and Medically Fragile Populations,” published in the latest edition of the Virginia Newsletter.
Do not confuse this issue with Global Warming (GW). Behr and Diaz, who work at ODU’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, were not simulating the impact of hypothesized GW-induced sea level rise, as others have done. The phrases “climate change” and “global warming” never appear in their paper. They were simulating an event that, though statistically unlikely, is within the bounds of experience in the United States and could happen to Hampton Roads.
I have no competence to critique the modeling methodology underlying the Behr-Diaz simulations, but I do believe they deserve credit for broadening their analysis beyond a simple calculation of property damage. They also map financial and medical vulnerability of the Hampton Roads population, recognizing that some households are too poor to effectively prepare for a lengthy hurricane-caused disruption and that some have medical needs that may go unmet after a disaster.
“Resilience,” referring to the ability of communities to recover from disasters, is all the rage among GW believers, but it would be a mistake for conservatives to dismiss the concept out of hand. The Behr-Diaz simulations make it clear that the concept is very relevant right now. Conservatives should take the lead in devising ways to make Virginia communities more resilient to natural disaster. One good place to start: Curtail federal insurance subsidies that encourage people to build in flood-prone coastal areas. Another idea: Encourage development either in higher-elevation areas or in low-elevation areas that can be hardened against a massive storm surge.