Friday, January 05, 2007

Where There’s a Problem, There’s a Solution

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.

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.
The technology exists. Good to know. So why all the debate about rebuilding New Orleans?
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.

"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."
Oh…. Wouldn’t want to make the builders mad, now would we?


Anonymous said...

We are almot sthere now, I think. The current codes in Louisiana require design for 150 MPH winds along the coast as well as elevation of the structure to allow the storm surge to disipate.

I was in Cameron Parish along the coast where Hurricane Rita came ashore. Most newer structures survived with minor damage, and they were built to the previous lower standards.

Its always possible a stronger hurrican will come along but the highest speed listed by the National Hurricane Center is 145 knots (166mph) for Andrew.

da po' boy said...


Max Mayfield is seen as an expert. So, when he says we can build homes safe against future big hurricanes, the "Why rebuild NOLA?" question is easier to answer.

Regarding past hurricanes, specifically Katrina, I guess it doesn't matter how well built the homes are if the levees don't work.

Tim said...

Proper construction means wind, flood, green--all of the above. If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: every hurricane is different. This one was all flood, pushing the largest storm surge ever witnessed. We are in the middle of rebuilding, so don't just think flood, think wind and think green. Be proactive, be smart! Quit looking back and look to the future. The politicians will lead as soon as we show them the way!!!