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NC Shouldn’t Abandon Flood Resiliency Projects in Pandemic

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Rainwater from Hurricane Florence washes out a bridge in Waxhaw, North Carolina. (Adobe Stock)
Rainwater from Hurricane Florence washes out a bridge in Waxhaw, North Carolina. (Adobe Stock)
June 1, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Atlantic hurricane season starts Monday, and weather watchers warn it could be an active one.

So, experts say funding for flood mitigation and resilient infrastructure must be a priority.

Even with state resources stretched in the COVID-19 pandemic, progress can be made, says Forbes Tompkins, manager of the Flood-Prepared Communities team for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Tompkins studies how communities can prepare for floods, and says North Carolina has been in a perpetual state of recovery from increasingly worse flooding events. He notes the state is still working to repair roads damaged by Hurricane Florence in 2018.

"A lot of communities that were flooded just two years prior in Hurricane Matthew still were barely recovered or in the midst of recovering from that storm, and then were hit again -- and still are looking to bounce back," Tompkins points out.

Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to release the state's first climate resilience plan this month.

Tompkins says as states continue to funnel money into public health measures against the coronavirus, they'll need additional help navigating how to protect flood-prone areas.

"And what they really need is more guidance, you know, and more resources from the federal government, to help fund some of those efforts and make sure when they are built back and using taxpayer dollars to do so, that they do so with an eye to the future, to make sure that these are long-lasting investments," he states.

Craig Fugate, a former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says the investment in flood resiliency will pay off. He notes that the economic effects of the pandemic mirror what small businesses have gone through after natural disasters.

"The goal that we have is, how do we build more resilient communities?" Fugate explains. "So small businesses aren't having to face the difficult decisions of how to recover from disasters, but are able to do business, provider jobs, pay taxes, as part of the local economy."

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2018's Hurricane Florence cost North Carolina an estimated $24 billion.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Disclosure: The Pew Charitable Trusts - Environmental Group contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Climate Change/Air Quality, Consumer Issues, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Health Issues, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC