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NC's Coastal Towns Rethink Development in Face of Changing Climate

Hurricane Dorian lashed the Carolinas earlier this month. (Adobe Stock/NASA)
Hurricane Dorian lashed the Carolinas earlier this month. (Adobe Stock/NASA)
September 19, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. – This month marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Florence, and experts are gathering in Raleigh to discuss how North Carolina's coastal communities and low-lying areas can prepare for the future.

Jay McLeod, senior planner for Municipal Planning & Mobility with Stewart Inc., helps local governments develop climate adaptation plans. He says rising sea levels and a warming atmosphere that holds more water are triggering more intense storms, so coastal areas need to have a game plan.

"Previous land-use development investment decisions, particularly on the coasts, were made prior to our current understanding of the challenges we're facing,” he points out. “And so, communities across the state are re-evaluating their previous planning efforts."

The Sept. 26 event is being hosted by The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC).

McLeod stresses that local governments need to start considering climate risk when it comes to making decisions about where to focus growth, investment and development.

"As storms hit and places need to rebuild and reinvest, they really need to have a plan in place that's been reviewed and vetted by the community, and that people can get behind, in order to make sure that future investments are not continuing to focus resources and value into places that are at risk," he states.

Andrew Huff, director of federal affairs for NAMIC, says the insurance industry is now taking a more proactive approach to assisting communities in preparing before disasters hit, and is advocating for stronger building codes.

"I think our number one concern is trying to end what we call the endless cycle of destruction, where basically as it stands right now, many homes are built after disasters to the came sub-par standards that led to their destruction in the first place," he states.

Last fall, President Donald Trump signed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which allows communities to use federal funding in order to boost infrastructure resilience in areas affected by a major disaster.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC