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Weathering the Storm


More than twenty people have tragically died recently due to the persistent and unrelenting

severe weather that recently plagued parts of the country. As the world continues to feel

impacts from global warming, the frequency and intensity of severe weather events, including hurricanes and tornadoes, has shown a marked increase. This increase continues to pose significant risks to both urban and rural communities alike.


According to the National Weather Service, the last decade has seen a higher number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes making landfall compared to earlier decades. Similarly, the pattern of tornadic activity has shifted, with areas previously considered at lower risk now experiencing increased tornado occurrences.


This escalation in storm patterns is shown in the fan favorite film, Twister which is coming back to the theaters this summer as a remake. This film along with others such as The Day After Tomorrow dramatizes the devastating potential of tornados and abrupt climate shifts. While these films are entertainment, they also reflect growing public awareness and anxiety about the changing climate and its impacts.


Additionally, recent events about increased flooding wreaking havoc in urban areas causing life- threatening situations, and stronger hurricanes underscore the urgent need for enhanced preparedness, and response strategies.


Disparities


The severity of these weather events disproportionately affects marginalized and economically disadvantaged communities. For instance, the aftermath of hurricanes in the southern United States often reveals the stark vulnerabilities of rural areas, where inadequate infrastructure and limited evacuation options worsen the challenges faced during such crises.


Historical data and recent events show that these communities are often the hardest hit, suffering greater damage and longer recovery times. For example, the 2025 Hurricane Katrina highlighted the devastating impact on minority and low-income areas in New Orleans, where delayed response and insufficient resources led to a prolonged recovery effort. Sadly, this was only a sign of what continues to worsen year after year indiscriminately.


Similarly, the past winter storms in Texas and Buffalo exposed the fragility of each state's infrastructure and its disproportionate impact on low-income, middle class, and minority communities. In Buffalo, New York, some people could not get off from work despite local driving bans and were stuck or succumbed to weather hazards.


In Texas, areas experienced extended power outages and water shortages, compounding the challenges already faced by residents. The lack of investment in resilient infrastructure and emergency preparedness measures in these communities underscores the need for targeted interventions to mitigate the impacts of severe weather events.


Preparedness


Awareness and preparedness are crucial in mitigating the impact of severe weather. Tuning in to your local news or a weather specific media outlet can provide life saving tips such as instructions on driving in inclement weather and avoiding flash floods, what to do if your vehicle becomes submerged in water, or suggestions on the safest places to ride out severe weather events such as tornadoes. Additionally, reliable sources such as the National Weather Authority, FEMA, and media outlets like the Weather Channel offer several actionable tips for communities and individuals. Listed below are some tips:


  • Emergency Kits: Maintain a ready-to-go emergency kit with essentials such as water, non-perishable food, medications, flashlights, and batteries. It’s recommended to have enough supplies to last at least 72 hours.

  • Communication Plans: Establish a family communication plan that includes evacuation routes and emergency contacts. Ensure that all family members are aware of the plan and know how to execute it.

  • Stay Informed: Regularly check updates from credible meteorological sources and local emergency management offices to stay informed about potential severe weather. Sign up for weather alerts and download relevant apps that provide real-time updates.

  • Home Preparation: Reinforce your home by securing windows and doors, and removing any debris or loose items from your yard that could become projectiles during a storm. Consider installing storm shutters or reinforcing your roof.

  • Community Support Systems: Engage with local community centers and organizations to create support networks for resource sharing and assistance during emergencies. Participate in community emergency response training programs to be better prepared.


Action


Addressing the deficiencies in community preparedness, especially in economically and culturally diverse urban and rural areas, is critical for reducing the impact of severe weather events. This involves both individual and community-level actions to ensure members are equipped with the knowledge and resources to safeguard themselves and their families.


In New York City, local officials are exploring a plan to buy back property from community members living in the same storm and flood ravaged areas. These areas represent parts of the city that cannot be fixed after the devastating floods that took several lives within the borough in 2021.


Local civic leadership acknowledging that the city lacks the infrastructure to safeguard residents from future potentially dangerous storm situations like flooding should be an important part of every region’s action and preparedness plan for its residents. Engaging in ongoing education and advocacy for better resources and policies is key in ensuring that all communities can prepare effectively for severe weather events. This includes strengthening power grids and providing adequate backup plans for food, water, and medical needs.


One way to enhance community preparedness is through the establishment of local emergency response teams that can provide immediate assistance and coordination during disasters. These teams can work closely with local governments and emergency management agencies to develop and implement comprehensive disaster response plans. Additionally, advocating for increased funding and resources for infrastructure improvements in vulnerable communities is essential to building resilience against severe weather events.


As severe weather events become more frequent and intense, the importance of preparedness cannot be overstated. It is imperative that all community members, especially those from vulnerable groups, are equipped with the knowledge and resources to safeguard themselves and their families. By taking proactive steps and fostering a culture of preparedness, communities can enhance their resilience and ensure that when the storm comes, no one is left unprotected. As individuals and communities, we must stay informed, prepared, and united in our efforts to weather the storm. We all should be weather aware!



Sources
  • National Weather Service. (2022). "Severe Weather Trends."

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (2022). "Emergency Preparedness Guidelines."

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