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Georgia Climate Project: What are the best ways to plan for and respond to extreme weather?

With Hurricane Florence gaining strength in the Atlantic and headed towards the US East Coast, today’s GCP Roadmap question is a very compelling one. How are we currently planning for extreme weather and what could we do better? Our emergency managers across the state have already spent a lot of time thinking about this, but there are certainly things we will probably learn from future extreme events, and some thought into what might occur ahead of time will improve our ability to prepare and reduce the worst damage from the storm. Every extreme event shows us things that we did not think about or plan for, and so research into what vulnerabilities we have will help to reduce future impacts even if they cannot be completely avoided. We can also learn from past weather events, so that lessons learned from Hurricane Matthew’s flooding in eastern NC, for example, might help us to deal with the likely flooding from Hurricane Florence later this week.

4. What are best practices in planning for and responding to extreme weather events and hazards, and how can Georgia improve these practices going forward?

Why this question is important: An analysis of current practices and gaps in the field of climate adaptation is needed to build an understanding of what is being done for and by communities across the State, building on and updating previous guidelines (e.g., Georgia Department of Community Affairs et al. 2014) to develop a current set of best practices. Such an analysis must include urban and rural, coastal and inland settings, and include consideration of impacts and responses targeted at the state’s most vulnerable populations, guided by lessons from recent weather-related disasters in the southeastern US. For example, population displacement of vulnerable citizens and long-term impacts on state economies can be quantified for specific hurricanes (e.g., Harvey, Irma, and Maria), and mitigation plans constructed accordingly.

Flooded field in eastern North Carolina. Source: The Packer