Hurricanes: What’s happening and why? What are the health ramifications?

A Matter of Facts from the University of Minnesota Libraries

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.

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.

U of M Libraries resources

Civil Engineering

Talks about infrastructure engineering to mitigate several hazards:

Potentially interesting because Hurricane Katrina was such a big event:

Climate Change

Public Health

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.


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