Experts: Future of Big Hurricanes Looms
By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA, Associated Press Writer
Have we seen America's future through the eyes of hurricanes Katrina and Rita? Monster storms drowning cities and obliterating coastlines. Jobs vanishing and prices rising as ports and pipelines close. Millions fleeing, but many are trapped and die. Chaos reigns, paralyzing government and leaving the world's wealthiest society humbled and frightened.
Natural disaster in the United States has morphed to a dangerous new level. Some experts say the nation can expect to be pummeled by more of these mega-catastrophes over the next 20 or 30 years in a nasty conspiracy of unfavorable weather patterns, changing demographics and political denial.
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"Are we prepared to lose a major city every year?" asks Carnegie Mellon University risk strategist Baruch Fischhoff. "It's cowardice not to ask the question, and cowardice on the public's part not to get engaged in the answer."
"We failed quite significantly," says sociologist Havidan Rodriguez, director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. "Will what we've seen over the last few weeks continue to be the case? It could unless we prepare. People tend to forget lessons learned. Governments tend to forget." . . . .
History is littered with the bones of great cities built in defiance of nature, most prominently the ancient version of Alexandria, Egypt, and its great library and lighthouse. That was another city built in the squishy mouth of a great river. Two millennia later, some truths don't change, said Muir-Woods, who raised the comparison with New Orleans.
"Climate change will have its greatest impact at the coastlines," Muir-Woods said, "and the risk will go up higher than people think."