By Alicia Kubas
It’s hurricane season. Hurricane Harvey and the rain that followed dumped 33 trillion gallons of water on the southern United States. Now, Irma, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded, has devastated the Caribbean and is poised to hit Florida, with the potential of causing further catastrophic damage.
What’s happening? Is climate change partly to blame? Should we be better prepared? What public health concerns are there? And how long will it take to rebuild — and at what cost?
This post is intended to provide information on recent news, current research, and reliable information to help you better understand these issues.
Freely available resources
First-hand accounts of any issue are important as a primary documentary source. One example of a primary documentary source is original reporting conducted by the press. Popular news outlets are covering these natural disasters in depth. These sources include both reporting and editorial commentary that cover different aspects and provide different viewpoints on the topic, including these listed below.
- First Harvey, Then Irma and Jose: Why? It’s the Season, The Washington Post, September 6, 2017-09-06
- Irma Portends New Woes For Debt-Stricken Puerto Rico, NPR News, September 6, 2017
- Hurricane Harvey floodwaters brimming with raw sewage, toxic chemicals, USA Today, September 5, 2017
- Hurricane Harvey: The Devastation and What Comes Next, New York Times, August 28, 2017
- Houston’s Flood Is a Design Problem, The Atlantic, August 28, 2017
- Dissecting Houston’s massive infrastructure, Houston Chronicle, January 9, 2017
- How Climate Change Fueled Hurricane Harvey, Wired, August 29, 2017
- Climate Cast: Harvey’s climate change connections, MPR, August 31, 2017
- Health Dangers from Harvey, Washington Post, September 1, 2017
- Infectious Diseases after Harvey, Newsweek, August 28, 2017
Other free resources include this revealing report from 2012 by the Houston Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers: ASCE. 2012 Report Card for Houston Area Infrastructure.
Freely available government sources
Government agencies also have a wealth of information, including daily news and press releases on Hurricane Harvey from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and White House press releases.
- Daily news and press releases starting August 24 from FEMA
- What FEMA is authorized to do for Louisiana and Texas
- Disaster declarations by Louisiana parish (county), press releases from the state of Louisiana related to Harvey
- Trump Press Release approving Louisiana Emergency Declaration
- Trump Press Release approving Texas Emergency Declaration
- Harvey’s potential impact on the oil/gas industry from Senator Markey (D-MA)
- HHS Public health info for Harvey including food and water safety, dealing with traumatic stress, use of medicine, personal hygiene, etc.
- FDA safety information about pets, food safety, drug safety, etc.
- NASA surface flooding and aerial images for Harvey
- Safety and evacuation measures asked by Gov. of Texas
- GAO webpage dedicated to the “high risk” classified National Flood Insurance Program (many reports & info about flooding and its impact on government funding)
- CRS Report (2013) about issues related to National Flood Insurance Program
- Tetanus Shots in the Wake of Harvey
- NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory has done research on hurricane’s connection to climate change as well as global warming
- NOAA’s strives for a “climate-smart nation” through its news and stories about climate change, including this one about hurricanes changing as the world warms
U of M Libraries resources
Talks about infrastructure engineering to mitigate several hazards:
- Multi-hazard approaches to civil infrastructure engineering. Gardoni, P., & LaFave, J. (2016). Switzerland: Springer.
- Advances in Hurricane Engineering: Learning from Our Past. Griffis, L., Jones, C., American Society of Civil Engineers, Structural Engineering Institute, & Applied Technology Council. (2013).
- Dam and levee safety and community resilience : A vision for future practice. National Research Council . Committee on Integrating Dam Levee Safety Community Resilience. (2012). Washington, D.C. National Academies Press.
Potentially interesting because Hurricane Katrina was such a big event:
- Hurricane Katrina : Performance of transportation systems. DesRoches, R. (2006).(Monograph (American Society of Civil Engineers. Technical Council on Lifeline Earthquake Engineering) ; no. 29). Reston, Va.]: American Society of Civil Engineers.
- More articles available from ASCE Civil Engineering Database
- Walsh, Kevin JE, et al. “Tropical cyclones and climate change.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 7.1 (2016): 65-89.
- Dinan, Terry. “Projected Increases in Hurricane Damage in the United States: The Role of Climate Change and Coastal Development.” Ecological Economics 138 (2017): 186-198.
- Knutson, Thomas R., et al. “Tropical cyclones and climate change.” Nature Geoscience 3.3 (2010): 157-163.
- Mann, Michael E., and Kerry A. Emanuel. “Atlantic hurricane trends linked to climate change.” Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union 87.24 (2006): 233-241.
- No Calm After the Storm: A Systematic Review of Human Health Following Flood and Storm Disasters. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2017 Jun 13:1-12. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X17006574. [Epub ahead of print] Saulnier DD1, Brolin Ribacke K1, von Schreeb J1.
- Collaboration Between Academia and Practice: Interprofessional Crises Leadership and Disaster Management. J Nurs Adm. 2017 Feb;47(2):123-128. doi: 10.1097/NNA.0000000000000451. Hoying C1, Farra S, Mainous R, Baute R, Gneuhs M.
- Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2017 May 8:1-6. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2017.6. [Epub ahead of print] Utilizing Strategic and Operational Methods for Whole-Community Disaster Planning. Franks S1, Seaton E2.
University of Minnesota research and expertise
This topic can be very broad, but the University Libraries has subject specialists in many fields. The Government Publications Librarian, Alicia Kubas, can field questions about U.S. government sources. Public Health Librarian, Shanda Hunt, can answer questions related to the health impacts of hurricanes. Civil Engineering Librarian, Allison Langham, can provide guidance on engineering sources, and, finally, Natural Resources Librarian, Shannon Farrell, can help with resources related to climate change.
Librarians also caution that when reading any source it is important to think about the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy that reminds researchers that “Authority Is Constructed and Contextual” and “Information Has Value” when engaging with articles and posts to ensure that sources are reputable and reliable and to decipher potential agendas or preferences.