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Current Hurricane Activity Raises Questions About The AMO – What Is It And Why Is it Relevant?

Have you taken a look at satellite view of the tropics right now? Hurricane Humberto, a major hurricane, threatens Bermuda. The remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda are drenching Southeast Texas, and several potential systems lurk in tropical regions that we look to at this time of the year. National Hurricane Center tropical meteorologist Eric Blake captures it best in this Tweet:

Anyone want a tropical storm? They are forming like roaches out there! 6 at once in both basins combined is thought to tie a modern NHC record , with two other disturbances adding the cherries on top of a crazy busy day!

Eric Blake, National Hurricane Center on Twitter

The hurricane basins of the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic are very active as seen in the picture below that I took at The Weather Channel early Wednesday morning. While likely not at the forefront of your thought processes this week, this active week prompted me to wonder about the status of something called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). What is it and why am I bringing it up during hurricane season?

According to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) website, the AMO is:

a coherent mode of natural variability occurring in the North Atlantic Ocean with an estimated period of 60-80 years. It is based upon the average anomalies of sea surface temperatures (SST) in the North Atlantic basin, typically over 0-80N.

Kevin Trenberth, Rong Zhang, and NCAR Staff: The Climate Data Guide: Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO)

The AMO has been at the center of many of the discussions about whether hurricane activity changes naturally or is being affected by climate change. I remember a particularly vigorous debate about these topics after the anomalously active 2005 hurricane season that gave us Hurricane Katrina and a series of storms taking on “Greek-letter names.” I haven’t heard as much about it recently, but it is still a “thing.” I often found the AMO-natural variability or anthropogenic climate change debate to be silly. I continue to be baffled by why these things are framed as “either/or” rather than “and.” The current scientific literature suggests the climate change signal on hurricanes will likely be apparent in intensity, forward motion, and surge inundation. The outstanding NOAA GFDL page on hurricanes and climate change points out that there is less conclusiveness on frequency. However, natural climate variability like the AMS is certainly in the mix. A 2017 study in Nature Scientific Reports argues that a negative AMO is emerging in spite of a warm subtropical region. A negative or cool phase is typically associated with fewer Atlantic hurricanes (graphic below).

I reached out to tropical expert Dr. Phil Klotzbach to get his latest thoughts on the AMO, and how this all aligns with what he is seeing in recent years. His group at Colorado State University issues seasonal hurricane forecasts. In their August update, they called for a “near normal” season in terms of activity.

I posed the question to Dr. Klotzbach, “So what’s going on with the AMO right now?” His answer:

That’s the million dollar question. The winters have looked like a very negative AMO with a cold SST tripole. But those cold anomalies have been much weaker in the summer when the far North Atlantic has a much shallower mixed layer.

Dr. Phil Klotzbach, CSU Tropical Meteorology Project

Dr. Klotzbach also told me that when he examined sea surface temperature differences (SSTs) from 2014-2019 minus 1995-2012 averaged over the period August to October (excluding 2019), the far North Atlantic remains colder but the tropical Atlantic SSTs haven’t shown much change. Klotzbach goes on to say:

There has been quite a bit of discussion about a weakening of the Atlantic Meriodional Ocean Circulation (AMOC) in the literature – including a couple of high profile papers published in Nature. The cold SST in the far North Atlantic bares that point out. However, the connection between the polar regions and the tropical regions doesn’t seem to be there during the summer months. Normally a cold far North Atlantic drives a stronger subtropical which drives stronger trade winds that then anomalously cool the tropical Atlantic. This has certainly been the case in the winter months, but the relationship has broken down in the summer

Dr. Phil Klotzbach, CSU Tropical Meteorology Project

I am providing links to 2017 and 2019 studies, respectively, in the Nature Climate Change.

Ultimately, September is a climatologically-active month so there is nothing unusual about seeing tropical waves, depressions, storms and hurricanes at this time of year. Eric Blake’s tweet just inspired me to revisit what people are thinking about the AMO since it was such a hot topic after the 2005 hurricane season.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate, was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS) and is Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program. Dr. Shepherd is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor and hosts The Weather Channel’s Weather Geeks Podcast, which can be found at all podcast outlets. Prior to UGA, Dr. Shepherd spent 12 years as a Research Meteorologist at NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center and was Deputy Project Scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission. In 2004, he was honored at the White House with a prestigious PECASE award. He also has received major honors from the American Meteorological Society, American Association of Geographers, and the Captain Planet Foundation. Shepherd is frequently sought as an expert on weather and climate by major media outlets, the White House, and Congress. He has over 80 peer-reviewed scholarly publications and numerous editorials. Dr. Shepherd received his B.S., M.S. and PhD in physical meteorology from Florida State University.

Source: Current Hurricane Activity Raises Questions About The AMO – What Is It And Why Is it Relevant?

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On Dorian-Battered Island, What’s Left? Virtually Nothing

MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas — No schools. No banks. No gas stations. No supermarkets. No restaurants. No churches. No pharmacies. No hardware stores. No water, no electricity and no phone lines.

In this part of the Bahamas, nearly everything is gone.

Hurricane Dorian didn’t just upend life in Marsh Harbour, the biggest town in the Abaco Islands. Dorian crushed it, stripping all essentials, schedules and routines — everything residents and visitors had taken for granted.

And there’s no sense when those things might be restored.

Five days after the storm struck the northern end of the Bahamas, the total death toll remains unknown, but fears abound that it will be far higher than the 43 confirmed as of Friday. Many people were still missing. By some estimates Dorian did at least $7 billion in damage.

Tens of thousands of traumatized survivors, with nothing but wreckage encircling them and no way to communicate, do not even know where to begin. In the Abacos, they simply had to start by leaving.

“This ain’t no place for anyone at the moment,” said Durana Francis, 35, a cook who, like most other residents, was trying to flee.

[The storm in photos: Devastation, fear and relief.]

The storm’s blast across the Abacos on Sunday damaged the vast majority of structures, erased entire neighborhoods and effectively rendered many residents homeless.

Hundreds of people swarmed Marsh Harbour’s wharf at the port on Friday after having heard rumors that ferry boats would arrive to evacuate people. Many others thronged the airport terminal, hoping to land a seat on private flights, which began arriving on Thursday after floodwaters had receded from the tarmac. As of Friday, commercial service in Marsh Harbour had not resumed, residents said.

Renaldo Bowleg, 37, who worked as a charter boat captain before the storm, passed by Marsh Harbour’s wharf after hearing about a possible humanitarian ferry to Nassau, capital of the Bahamas. He had his two pit bulls and was hoping to secure space for the three of them.

“I was going to stay and volunteer, but it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I just feel it best to be closer to extraction points right now. People are becoming more desperate now.”

Mr. Bowleg was carrying an unlit cigar, a gift from a police officer he had encountered in the street a couple of days after the storm. Mr. Bowleg wasn’t a smoker but said the occasion would make him one.

McLean’s Town on Grand Bahama Island on Friday.
CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

“If I get on a boat I’m going to light this,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy it on my ride back to Nassau.”

The larger and more populated Grand Bahama Island also took a direct hit from Dorian, leaving some areas destroyed and survivors stupefied. Surrounded by wreckage, many wondered how they could meet their most basic needs.

In Lady Lake, a ravaged neighborhood near Freeport, Grand Bahama’s largest city, the yard of Nicole Sweeting-Bain’s gutted, one-story home was littered with the shredded remnants of what had been inside. A large Bahamanian flag was the only recognizable object. Whether to salvage and rebuild was the last thing on her mind.

“I don’t even care about the house,” she said, scrambling through the rubble in an attempt to find anything still intact. “My kids don’t have underwear.”

Her brother, Sean, 51, who shared the house, said there was no option but to relocate. “Home is home,” he said, “but in this particular area, I don’t think so.”

Other Dorian victims, in Grand Bahama, said they would rebuild.

O’Neil Wildgoose, 43, said he, his wife and their dog spent two days on the roof of their home in Freeport’s Lincoln Green neighborhood, ravaged by a 12-foot storm surge that “came like a tsunami.”

“I watched every piece of my furniture float through the back door,” Mr. Wildgoose said. But he insisted he would not leave Grand Bahama, where he has lived since birth. “We have to be resilient. We can’t give up.”

In the Abacos, no area seemed to have been hit as ferociously as Marsh Harbour. It was as if someone had lifted up the entire town and dropped it.

Houses smashed to bits. Commercial buildings split open as if with a sledgehammer, their contents splayed on the sidewalk. Boats and cars tossed here and there like toys.

Some residents shared the food and water they had stockpiled, while others took whatever they could from wrecked food shops, offices and pharmacies.

Waiting for evacuation by a boat in Marsh Harbour.
CreditDaniele Volpe for The New York Times

Hundreds of people, many from destroyed shantytowns that had been mostly populated by Haitian immigrants, fled to the main government complex in Marsh Harbour and took up residence in its damaged offices.

Maxine Duncombe, the administrator of the central Abaco district, said the government had admonished residents, particularly in low-lying areas, to evacuate to proper shelters before the storm. Officials had even gone door to door, broadcasting their warnings.

“We thought people would heed the warnings,” Ms. Duncombe said Friday at the government complex.

The first refugees started arriving at the complex as the hurricane’s eye passed over Marsh Harbour. “We saw this multitude and my first instinct was to save lives,” Ms. Duncombe said. “I pushed them into every office.”

At their peak, nearly 2,000 people were sleeping in the building’s courtyard, along its colonnaded balcony and walkways, and in its administrative offices. They dried their wet clothes on the branches of bushes in and around the building, and children played on the trunk of a palm tree felled in the storm.

Their numbers had ebbed considerably by Friday as they found other sanctuaries, or a way off the island.

Ebony Thomas and Phil Thomas Sr. cleaned the floors of their home in McLean’s Town. Four members of their family are missing.
CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

Andrew MacCalla, vice president of emergency response at Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization that was flying pallets of medical supplies to the Bahamas, said the evacuation was not a choice. He likened it to Hurricane Irma, which wiped out several Caribbean islands in 2017, including Barbuda where all 3,000 people had to be evacuated.

“There wasn’t anything there, no housing, no structure, no clean water,” he said of Barbuda. This is not a quick rebuild. In the short term, it’s moving them off.”

A post-apocalyptic sense of despair claws at Marsh Harbour. There are no public utilities, and no reliable sources of food or drinking water. Gasoline supplies are dwindling and are a black-market trade now — for those fortunate enough to have a functioning vehicle.

Only one of the Abacos’ two cellphone companies has restored partial service in Marsh Harbour, but the regular phone lines remain down, leaving most people without a way to make calls.

Verifiable information of any sort was in short supply, so people fell back on rumors.

Kenson Jean Louis, 25, a roofing company worker, was at the wharf, hoping to get on a rumored ferry. But the storm left him without identification papers, credit cards or other documentation, and he worried he would be unable to travel.

What little remains of the Mudd neighborhood of Marsh Harbour.
CreditDaniele Volpe for The New York Times

The first step for recovering lost documents was to file a police report, he said, but the police department had been seriously damaged and there was nobody to file a report with.

Mr. Louis said he viewed the hurricane as a test of human will.

“This is what we made of,” he said. “We are men.”

Government emergency officials have been scarce, if not invisible, to residents, angering many.

“The government has to do better,” said Ms. Francis, 35, who was waiting at the wharf with her two sons, 4 and 7, and her boyfriend. The only belongings they salvaged from their destroyed home fit in a black duffel bag and small backpack at their feet.

“They need boats,” she said. “They need to bring all them things in here.”

At the government center, Keven Pierre, 34, was charging his cellphone off a generator, one of the few available to the public in Marsh Harbour, and plotting his next move. He was trying to figure out a way to get himself and nine family members off Abaco Island. He had heard about the commercial flights on Bahamas Air leaving from Treasure Cay, but was angered at the idea that the airline might charge for the seats. (The airline said Friday that “all persons wishing to leave Abaco will be provided passage free of charge.”)

Without banks and ATMs in operation, many residents were left without cash.

At the Marsh Harbour airport, where part of the tarmac was still underwater, Lakeria Simms, 29, and her husband, David Gardiner, 31, and their three young children, had joined hundreds of others seeking a seat on a plane.

The hurricane, Ms. Simms said, had “put everybody on square zero.”

Her family had started the day at the wharf, arriving at 5 a.m. in pursuit of the rumored ferry. Late in the morning they took their chances at the airport. But they had little accurate information, and found themselves amid a cluster of storm refugees stuck outside the entrance. The police prevented them from entering.

“Sit and wait,” Mr. Gardiner said, describing their plans. “And hope.”

Reporting was contributed by Rachel Knowles from Grand Bahama Island, Frances Robles from Miami, Elisabeth Malkin and Azam Ahmed from Mexico City, and Rick Gladstone from New York.

By

Source: On Dorian-Battered Island, What’s Left? Virtually Nothing

Powerful hurricane lashes the Bahamas with some of the strongest winds they’ve ever seen; Ellison Barber reports from Juno Beach, Florida. #FoxNews FOX News operates the FOX News Channel (FNC), FOX Business Network (FBN), FOX News Radio, FOX News Headlines 24/7, FOXNews.com and the direct-to-consumer streaming service, FOX Nation. FOX News also produces FOX News Sunday on FOX Broadcasting Company and FOX News Edge. A top five-cable network, FNC has been the most watched news channel in the country for 17 consecutive years. According to a 2018 Research Intelligencer study by Brand Keys, FOX News ranks as the second most trusted television brand in the country. Additionally, a Suffolk University/USA Today survey states Fox News is the most trusted source for television news or commentary in the country, while a 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation survey found that among Americans who could name an objective news source, FOX News is the top-cited outlet. FNC is available in nearly 90 million homes and dominates the cable news landscape while routinely notching the top ten programs in the genre. Subscribe to Fox News! https://bit.ly/2vBUvAS Watch more Fox News Video: http://video.foxnews.com Watch Fox News Channel Live: http://www.foxnewsgo.com/ Watch full episodes of your favorite shows The Five: http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/lon… Special Report with Bret Baier: http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/lon… The Story with Martha Maccallum: http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/lon… Tucker Carlson Tonight: http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/lon… Hannity: http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/lon… The Ingraham Angle: http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/lon… Fox News @ Night: http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/lon… Follow Fox News on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoxNews/ Follow Fox News on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FoxNews/ Follow Fox News on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/foxnews/

Why The Track Forecast For Hurricane Dorian Has Been So Challenging

Here is something that you can take to the bank. We will not see the name “Dorian” used in the Atlantic basin for any future hurricane. The names of particularly destructive or impactful storms are retired. According to the National Hurricane Center, Dorian is now tied with the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record. In a 3 pm advisory on September 1st, the National Hurricane Center warned of gusts to 220 mph and 18 to 23 feet storm surges for parts of the Abacos.

I have been in the field of meteorology over 25 years and do not recall seeing warnings about 220 mph gusts for a hurricane. Hurricane watches have also been issued for Andros Island and from North of Deerfield Beach to the Volusia/Brevard County Line in Florida. At the time of writing, the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center is for a northward curve and no direct Florida landfall. This is dramatically different from forecasts only a few days ago.

There is still uncertainty with the forecast so coastal Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas should remain on high alert. Why has the track forecast been so challenging with Hurricane Dorian?

Historically, hurricane track forecasts have outpaced intensity forecasts. I discuss the reasons why in a previous Forbes article at this link. With Hurricane Dorian, uncertainty about the forecast track and timing of the storm forced officials to move the Florida State – Boise State football game from Jacksonville, slated for a 7 pm kickoff on Saturday, to noon in Tallahassee. I am certain that many businesses and people are questioning the move given that timing of when impacts are now expected. Unfortunately, officials and emergency managers often must make decision on the best information at the moment.

Some people may be tempted to use uncertainty with this forecast to spew vitriol or skepticism at meteorologists and our models. However, challenges with Hurricane Dorian’s track forecast do not define the legacy of weather forecasts. It would be silly to say that the NFL’s best field goal kicker is terrible based on a few misses.

So what’s going on? I asked a panel of tropical meteorology experts.

Today In: Innovation

Speed of motion of Hurricane Dorian has been a significant challenge. Professor John Knox, a recent recipient of the American Meteorological Society’s Edward Lorenz Teaching Award, offers an important lesson. The University of Georgia atmospheric sciences professor pointed out:

Before you bash the meteorologists for being stupid: one reason the forecasted track has changed is because the forecasts of the forward speed of Dorian have slowed it down more and more. If it had chugged along as originally forecast, it likely would have hit east-central Florida and then maybe gone into the Gulf, before the high pressure above us in the Southeast would break down. But, because it’s moving more slowly, the high-pressure break down is opening the gate, so to speak, for Dorian to go more northward and eastward. So, the change in forecast is tied tightly to the arrival timing.

Professor John Knox, University of Georgia

Dr. Phillippe Papin is an Atmospheric Scientist and Associate Postdoctoctor Scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Papin also points to the high pressure as being a factor. He wrote:

the ridge to the north of Dorian has been steering Dorian off to the west the last few days….But there is a weak trough that is swinging into the eastern US that is going to erode the strength to the ridge enough so that a gap forms to the north of Dorian and it begins to move further to the north.

Dr. Phillippe Papin, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The timing of when that weakness develops and on how far Dorian makes it west in the meantime has been the source of uncertainty in the model guidance for the last 2-3 days according to Papin. At the time of writing, there is still some spread in the model solutions.

Dr. Michael Ventrice is a tropical weather expert with IBM and The Weather Company. He has been concerned about the storm environment and how well the models are capturing the rapidly evolving situation. He told me:

I believe the uncertainty is derived from how the models are resolving Dorian, locally. The recent intensification of the storm today is not being resolved by the models properly at the time of the 12z initialization. The interaction with the Bahamas, how that interaction might alter the mesoscale structure of the Hurricane, if that interaction induces a wobble, are all valid questions at this point in time

Michael Ventrice — IBM/The Weather Company

A hurricane of this size and intensity can certainly modify its environment and be modified by that environment. Sam Lillo, a doctoral candidate at the University of Oklahoma, tweeted an interesting point on the afternoon of September 1st about how worrisome the rapid intensification and track uncertainty of Hurricane Dorian has been:

The track uncertainty in NWP at under 3-day lead-time is very uncomfortable, especially considering proximity to land. This would be uncomfortable for any hurricane. But then make it a category 5.

Sam Lillo, doctoral candidate in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma

Our best models have oscillated (and in some cases continue to do so) within the past 24-36 hours on just how close Dorian will get to Florida before curving northward. Lillo offers some further insight into what Dr. Ventrice was alluding to about the environment:

As Dorian strengthened faster than expected, diabatic outflow developed an upper level anticyclone to the southwest, adding southerly and westerly components to the steering flow. The westerly component in particular slowed the forward motion of the hurricane, and now its track across the Bahamas coincides with a trough that sweeps across the Mid Atlantic and Northeast on Monday. This trough cuts into the ridge to the north of Dorian, with multiple steering currents now trying to tug the hurricane in all different directions. The future track is highly sensitive to each of these currents, with large feedback on every mile the hurricane jogs to the left or right over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Sam Lillo, doctoral candidate in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma

Lillo offers a nice meteorological explanation. In a nutshell, he is saying that the rapid intensification perturbed the near-storm environment and now there may be other steering influences besides the ridge of high pressure that the models are struggling to resolve.

In a previous Forbes piece last week, I mentioned that forecasts in the 5+ day window and beyond can have errors of 200 miles and that the information should be used as “guidance” not “Gospel.” Because there is still uncertainty with the models and Dorian is such a strong storm, residents from coastal Florida to the Carolinas must pay attention and be prepared to act. I have complete confidence in my colleagues at the National Hurricane Center, and they should always be your definitive source with storms like this. They still maintain an eventual curve northward before the storm reaches the Florida coast. However, the issuance of hurricane watches in Florida also indicates that they know the margin of error is razor thin.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate, was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS) and is Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program. Dr. Shepherd is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor and hosts The Weather Channel’s Weather Geeks Podcast, which can be found at all podcast outlets. Prior to UGA, Dr. Shepherd spent 12 years as a Research Meteorologist at NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center and was Deputy Project Scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission. In 2004, he was honored at the White House with a prestigious PECASE award. He also has received major honors from the American Meteorological Society, American Association of Geographers, and the Captain Planet Foundation. Shepherd is frequently sought as an expert on weather and climate by major media outlets, the White House, and Congress. He has over 80 peer-reviewed scholarly publications and numerous editorials. Dr. Shepherd received his B.S., M.S. and PhD in physical meteorology from Florida State University.

Source: Why The Track Forecast For Hurricane Dorian Has Been So Challenging

National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham provides an update on Hurricane Dorian. RELATED: https://bit.ly/2NFZCak Dorian’s slow crawl, estimated at about 7 mph on Sunday afternoon, placed it within 185 miles of West Palm Beach, Florida. But forecasters remained unsure of whether, or where, it might make landfall in the U.S. after it makes an expected turn to the north.

That left millions of people from South Florida to North Carolina on alert and preparing for the worst. » Subscribe to USA TODAY: http://bit.ly/1xa3XAh » Watch more on this and other topics from USA TODAY: https://bit.ly/2JYptss » USA TODAY delivers current local and national news, sports, entertainment, finance, technology, and more through award-winning journalism, photos, videos and VR. #hurricanedorian #dorian #hurricanes

A Tale of Two Communities – People & Fish – Recovering from Harvey By Larry McKinney

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One year after Hurricane Harvey hammered the Texas coast, divergent pictures of recovery and resilience have emerged. The coastal marine communities of fish, shrimp and crabs that thrive along our Gulf coast, are dynamic, resilient and on the mend. The coastal human communities are also dynamic but their resilience is being challenged.

The coastal marine community has an important advantage over coastal human communities — millions of years of evolution driven by hurricanes. Hundreds of hurricanes have entered the Gulf of Mexico since we started keeping track of them, and the Coastal Bend has seen its share. The plants, animals and even the physical landscape of the coast are shaped by hurricanes. It’s survival of the fittest, as the animals so fundamental to ecosystem health — the shrimps, crabs and fish such as red drum and spotted seatrout — all have life cycles that respond well to hurricane-induced stress.

Hurricanes are the giant cement mixer: nutrients and sediments are resuspended, mixed up and flushed from inland reaches into bays and estuaries. Freshwater mingles with saltwater and vice versa. The physical environment also changes; some habitats, like oyster reefs and seagrass meadows, can be buried. Deep pockets scattered across otherwise shallow coastal flats fill in, new ones form, and as the hurricane passes, barrier island passes open and close.

Harvey was different from most hurricanes in that it hit the Texas coast twice. It stalled after landfall, hung around Victoria, then went back into the Gulf over San Antonio Bay, where it sucked up more water, heat and power, moved northeast and slammed into Houston, dumping unforeseen amounts of water over the metropolitan and neighboring areas. The result was really two storms: South Texas had to deal with wind, waves and storm surge, especially from the bayside, but northeast Texas had to deal with massive floods.

The combination of winds, storm surge, low salinity, and low dissolved oxygen had devastating effects on coastal habitats up and down the Texas coast. Floods dumped unprecedented freshwater carrying huge quantities of organics into bays, causing extensive hypoxia. Despite the stress, coastal habitats showed signs of recovery by spring 2018, followed by a genuine bloom through summer.

We saw a burst of new life, particularly in South Texas, as the bays filled with huge schools of juvenile fish. Spotted seatrout grew fat and lazy with so much bounty. Over the next several years the marine ecosystem, as well as anglers and seafood lovers, will reap that bounty. The renewal is reminiscent of a forest fire, which is initially devastating, but recovery brings back a boom of new life.

Our coastal communities also respond with immediacy to hurricanes. While we have not been around so long as the fish and shrimp, we have learned how to survive on the edge of the sea. Our abilities to predict a hurricane’s course and energy has increased impressively, and the emergency responses of coastal leaders and communities are nothing short of heroic. The rush to aid by all after Harvey was inspiring, renewing faith in our neighbors both near and far.

However, as Texas communities continue to recover, our human systems for social support, economic recovery and governance of public resources have faltered. This is particularly evident in South Texas, where we lack the capacity of large cities like Houston. Even there, some neighborhoods are failing to recover from this unprecedented natural disaster.

Our political leadership can muster funding, both short term and for the long haul, but when they leave the coast for their various seats of government and bureaucracy takes over, recovery efforts can break down. Judges, mayors, county commissioners and local leaders have their hands full meeting the immediate needs of their citizens. Adding another “job” to a long list simply does not work.

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The sheer complexity of recovery is mind-boggling. There are dozens of federal, state, philanthropic and private programs offering assistance. However, there is no one-stop shop spanning very different recovery issues. Tough issues persist, such as renters who lost housing; individuals struggling with mental health through recovery; communities trying to rebuild schools and bring back families that have moved away; small businesses that need a jumpstart to rebuild local economies on a shrinking tax base; and what to do when critical infrastructure is privately owned and does not qualify for federal assistance.

Acquiring the planning capacity needed to navigate this complexity while making sure communities are building back in a safer, more resilient way adds further burden. Even in a community like Rockport, which has invested in dedicated staff to address these issues, recovery will be hard-fought for years to come. For those communities that could not make such an investment, the road is hard indeed.

To build long-term resilience, we must better understand the complexities of recovery programs and resources; link them with coastal communities through careful planning that addresses future risks; and integrate these efforts with the environment of which we are a part.

Hurricanes are a reality of coastal life, and people are now part of that coastal ecosystem. If we are to live and thrive on our coastal margins we have understand and adapt to that reality and secure the capital needed to plan for our resilient future. We have a lot to learn from the fishes.

 

 

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