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Expert Advisory – Who is responsible for destruction when hurricanes strike?

Friday, September 14, 2018

With hurricane, Florence menacing the United States Atlantic coast with dangerous winds and the potential for historic flooding people in the hurricane's path have been asked to evacuate. 

This extreme weather could have potentially damaging implications for the lives of those impacted as well as infrastructure, homes and the natural environment. The University of Waterloo has several experts available to speak on this topic.

Jason Thistlethwaite – School of Environment, Enterprise and Development

Jason Thistlethwaite, a professor and researcher in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, studies the economic effects of climate change, natural disasters and extreme weather.

Humans are to blame for the damage from hurricanes, not the storm.

“Hurricane Florence is an awesome force of nature, but it's governments and their taxpayers that encourage people to build and live in harm's way. Land-use policies do not restrict development in areas where storm-surge routinely leads to millions in damage. Property buyers are not told their new homes are located in high-risk flood areas. After the storm passes, insurance is available, so people rebuild in the same floodplain and taxpayers are there to cover for any insurance debt. We have the power to prevent catastrophic loss from hurricanes, perhaps it’s time we started to use it.”

Shawna Peddle – FloodSmart Canada

Shawna Peddle is the director of Partners for Action an applied research network advancing flood resiliency in Canada in the face of a changing climate and extreme weather. She collaborates with a diverse set of stakeholders from academia, business, government and non-governmental organizations to protect Canadians from the risks of flooding in the face of climate change.

Canadians and Americans similar ignorance of extreme weather risk.  

“We watch these evacuations and wonder why people don’t go when they are told their lives could be in danger. It’s not just because they are stubborn Americans – our research with flood survivors here in Canada shows we don’t prepare or have a plan to connect with our families or evacuate, even if we have been through flooding ourselves. Most people don’t believe anything bad will happen to them, or even worse, believe they’ve been through it before, so can tackle any storm that comes their way. Every storm is different, and what worked before may not be good enough this time around.”

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