Max Mayfield is no longer the chief of the National Hurricane Center. He leaves warning of the big one to come and lamenting Americans’ penchant for building near the coast:
"We're eventually going to get a strong enough storm in a densely populated area to have a major disaster," he said. "I know people don't want to hear this, and I'm generally a very positive person, but we're setting ourselves up for this major disaster."Well, there’s the problem. How about a solution?
He argues that his own dire predictions don't have to become reality.The technology exists. Good to know. So why all the debate about rebuilding New Orleans?
Technology exists to build high-rise buildings capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds and tropical storm surges more powerful than experienced in the past few years. Much of Hong Kong's architecture has been built to survive typhoons, and hotels and apartments built in Kobe, Japan, after a 1995 earthquake devastated the city are touted as indestructible, he said.
What is lacking in the U.S. is the political will to make and impose hard decisions on building codes and land use in the face of resistance from the influential building industry and a public still willing to gamble that the big one will never hit, he said.Oh…. Wouldn’t want to make the builders mad, now would we?
"It's good for the tax base" to allow developers to put up buildings on the coastline, Mayfield said in explaining politicians' reluctance to deter housing projects that expose residents to storm risks.
"I don't want the builders to get mad at me," he said, "but the building industry strongly opposes improvement in building codes."