Houston, Texas is among the five cities that are the most prepared for future superstorms.

Los Angeles, CA: Facing up to the possibility of extreme temperatures, L.A. is encouraging cool roofs and pavements that reflect sunlight.

Miami, FL: Miami-Dade County is mapping its hazard-prone areas, allowing more sensible development decisions.

New York City: Mayor Bloomberg's $19.5 billion PlaNYC includes provisions for bolstering neighborhoods like Coney Island and Brighton Beach from flooding and storm surges, improving drainage, and allowing areas to return more quickly after storms.

Salt Lake City, UT: Salt Lake is projected to see a 90% drop in rainfall as a result of climate change, so the city is investing in water conservation and storage projects.

2013-11-20

Co.Exist

Five Cities That Won't Fall Over In The Next Superstorm

These cities are the most prepared for future natural disasters--as long as those disasters hold off until after they finish carrying out their long, expensive protective plans.

If climate models are correct, cities around the world are in for a bumpy ride over the next few decades. Storms, rising seas, heat waves, droughts, and floods are set to become the norm, pushing infrastructure to the limit.

To cope, cities need to become more resilient so they can withstand extreme weather, minimize disruptions, and recover as quickly as possible. A recent report from the Center For American Progress picks out five cities that are doing a good job so far (see below). It's also produced this interactive map, which plots the actions of a further 45 cities around the country. They are "restoring wetlands and dunes, building sea walls and levees, and factoring climate change risks into infrastructure, building designs, and public health planning," the report says. Most of them, however, still have a long way before their resiliency plans are fully put into action.

Houston

Houston has too much water, and too little. The report praises the city's Rebuild Houston program, launched after massive flooding in the summer of 2012, which aims to improve drainage and water infrastructure. "This initiative will create infrastructure jobs and protect Houston properties and businesses from damages from future storms," the report says. On the other hand, a drought in 2011 shows how the city could also run short of water. Mayor Annise Parker wants to "diversify Houston’s water supply, reduce consumer’s water bills, and ensure sudden mandatory water-conservations measure do not disrupt businesses and households in the future."

Los Angeles

Facing up to the possibility of extreme temperatures, L.A. is encouraging cool roofs and pavements that reflect sunlight. It's also introducing more tree cover (because "one healthy tree provides the same cooling as 10 room-sized air conditioners for 20 hours per day") and opening up more green spaces. The city has incentivizing water conservation through customer rebates, low-flow toilets, and new types of showers and faucets.

Miami

If the city doesn't take action now, Miami could lose $3.5 trillion by 2070 from climate-related events, CAP says. Miami is at sea level and is very vulnerable to sea-level rise. At the same time, much of its income comes from agriculture and tourism that sits on the coast. Miami-Dade County is mapping its hazard-prone areas, allowing more sensible development decisions. "The county also has several water-conservation efforts underway, including a five-year water-use efficiency plan that will preserve Miami’s ecosystems while also saving consumers and companies money," the report explains.

New York City

Superstorm Sandy showed New York's vulnerability to major storms. The report praises Mayor Bloomberg's $19.5 billion response, called PlaNYC. It will bolster neighborhoods like Coney Island and Brighton Beach from flooding and storm surges, improving drainage and allowing areas to return more quickly after storms. "The city aims to reduce storm-water runoff and sewer overflows by expanding green infrastructure and installing new and upgrading existing sewers." PlaNYC also calls for better public transit, and for the city to work with utilities and regulators on smarter grid technologies, building efficiency, and distributed generation.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake is projected to see a 90% drop in rainfall as a result of climate change. As a result, the city plans "to preserve an additional 10% of watershed lands and groundwater resources by 2015" and "invest in roads and trails in and around the watershed restoration projects, improving recreation and transportation opportunities for residents in the region."

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9 Comments

  • Ibrar

    They are "restoring wetlands and dunes, building sea walls and levees, and factoring climate change risks into infrastructure, building designs

  • Rhetorikol

    The article title is misleading, and these cities have a long way to go before they can be resilient to the rapid effects of climate change and crumbling infrastructure. There are too many abnormalities to be prepared for the events of the future without the overall mentality that things have to absolutely change drastically in the status quo or change will be forced upon by mother nature. There is a falsity in believing that humanity should stand its ground with current designs rather than evolving and adapting. Unlike trees, who have roots (good for floods), we have the advantage of mobility. We can build up and we can build away from shores. Drought can be an issue for all of these cities with major consumption demands.

    A) Houston still evacuates during major hurricanes, (where San Antonio and other Texas cities are prepared to receive massive amounts of refugees), and this is not bound to change anytime soon. Even with barrier adaptations, Houston is still at risk of major flooding by 2050 with a possible $9 billion loss. Like NYC, major power outages and production shortages can result from major storm surges. Self sustainability is key.

    B) Los Angeles is unique in that it is also prone to tsunamis and major earthquakes, which can easily hinder infrastructure. Without self sustainbility, for example in extensive rain water collection and urban gardening, it will be as prone as the major large metropolises.

    C) New York City is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy and that wasn't even a direct path. The changes being made now are minimal at best, yet it showed how vulnerable the city was to flooding, loosing electricity, and resource shortages. NYC needs long-term goals for self sustainability and waste management, such as extensive internal recycling programs and composting with urban gardens. Fossil Fuel divestment from many universities and organizations (such as The New School) is a good start, but it's a drop in the ocean to the scope of rising seas and the effects this has on public transit.

    Overall the American mentality needs to change from stubbornness, to acceptance and adaptability.