The cumulative losses of Hurricanes Matthew and Florence for Eastern N.C., along with decades of under-investment, make clear that a plan to rebuild post-Hurricane Florence will have to rebuild toward resiliency.
Eastern North Carolina has endured two 500-year floods in two years. As the Governor and General Assembly meet in Raleigh to develop a proposal for rebuilding, a recognition of the region’s history and its future must be part of the plan, including the economic and human importance of the region to the overall state’s well-being.
Hurricane Florence reached North Carolina just 3 weeks ago and, as yet, estimates do not exist as to the extent of the impact across the 18 counties that have been designated as disaster-impacted by the federal government.
Across the multiple states impacted by Hurricane Florence’s path, Moody’s Analytics estimates damage at between $17 billion and $22 billion, along with additional economic losses at $38 billion to $50 billion. Agricultural losses in North Carolina alone total at least $1 billion. These figures suggest that Hurricane Florence could be a more costly storm than Hurricane Matthew, which landed in North Carolina in October 2016 and cost the state $2.8 billion in damages and another $2 billion in lost economic activity.
The cumulative losses of these two storms to the region and specific communities, along with decades of under-investment, make clear that a plan to rebuild post-Hurricane Florence will have to rebuild toward resiliency. Community resilience means that the resources in a place are able to be deployed to withstand and recover from adverse situations, including both natural disasters and economic shocks. An increasing body of literature and practice in the areas of disaster preparedness, public health, and social justice identifies the critical role of a broader range of policy responses to ensure resiliency, including the inclusiveness of decision-making processes, alignment of systems across sectors, and specific orientation to those living in poverty.
This BTC Brief provides an overview of the counties that have been certified as disaster-affected by FEMA within the broader context of earlier storms and broader economic conditions. It then reviews past policy and funding choices by legislators in the wake of storms and lessons learned to identify ways forward to address Hurricane Florence and rebuild toward resiliency.