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Coastal Development without a Thought for Consequences

Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center has warned about thoughtless overdevelopment along our coasts, but of course money talks, and reason, well no one is really interested in reason if it means fewer profits.

The situation on the Houston freeways today shows what happens when you overdevelop vulnerable areas but can’t create enough highway infrastructure to handle the population growth.

I grew up on the Gulf Coast – Pinellas County Florida – and in the 60s it would have been an easy evacuation. If a hurricane headed into Tampa Bay today, good luck getting all those people over a few bridges.

Miserable evacuations like the one we are seeing in Houston today create serious problems for future evacuations:

If large swaths of the evacuation areas are not seriously damaged, people will think, “What an idiotic evacuation – can’t believe I was stuck in traffic for 18 hours.” Next hurricane some of these people will simply opt out of evacuation.

In the future, local planning will need to include adequate evacuation routes – more freeways and major roadways – or you will see many people simply refusing to evacuate because it is just too difficult. Frankly, I don’t see it happening, so in the future we may see tragedy that dwarfs what we saw in New Orleans.

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